Craig Levein backs Lyndon Dykes over Celtic's Leigh Griffiths on BBC Sportsound

By David Walton

November 17, 2020

Former Scotland and Hearts boss Craig Levein has dismissed the idea of Leigh Griffiths being chosen ahead of Lyndon Dykes in the national team.

Dykes and Griffiths are two totally different types of strikers, with Scotland boss Steve Clarke favouring the former over the latter during the last two international breaks. Griffiths has largely been injured or been building up his fitness during that time.

However, now, the Celtic striker is starting to get more minutes under his belt as he looks to kickstart his quest to win his place back both at Parkhead and Hampden.

But with Clarke often featuring a lone-striker system, Levein believes Dykes is more suited to how he wants to play.

Speaking live on BBC Sportsound, Levein said: “I just don’t think he’s the type of player who will run the channels for 90 minutes.

“I think he’s sharp, and around about the penalty box, he’s electric. He’s very clever and his movement is excellent. Also, he anticipates, and that’s why he’s such a good goalscorer (Griffiths). When Scotland are defending deep – and at times defenders need to make clearances – who would you have running into the channels, Lyndon Dykes or or Leigh Griffiths? That’s not Leigh’s game.

“Don’t get me wrong, he will try. But when the ball goes forward and I see Lyndon Dykes up front, as a midfield player I’m 100% making a run thinking I have chance of scoring a goal. I’m very happy that Leigh Griffiths is in the squad, but what I think we’ll see is what we saw tonight. If we’re behind in a match then he will come on, we’ll go 4-4-2, and we’ll rely on him.”

Leigh more than capable of playing the lone-striker role

There’s a bit of a misconception about Griffiths that Levein has fallen into here. This idea that Griff isn’t suited to playing up top on his own is absolute nonsense.

Sure, if you’re going to just punt the ball up then nine times out of 10 a big towering centre-back will beat our man in the air. But if you play the ball to feet, Griffiths is better than any of Scotland’s other strikers when it comes to linking up the play.

People forget, but Griffiths scored 40 goals under Ronny Deila at a time when we often played a 4-2-3-1 system. He’s also had success on his own up front under the likes of Brendan Rodgers and at times Neil Lennon.

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Griffiths doesn’t have to be the best in the world at playing on his own to get into this Scotland team more regularly. You can’t tell me a fully-fit and firing Leigh Griffiths sits on the bench because two-goal man Lyndon Dykes is fit. I think some people are getting a bit carried away by the former Livingston man’s start to life on the international scene.

Of course, for now, Clarke will go with him. Griffiths will likely have to stay on the bench and build up his fitness further before the next international break in March.

But if Griffiths is fit, scoring goals and ready to play for Scotland, spare me this idea that Dykes should always be in ahead of him. It’s a poor narrative.

In other news, one of Neil Lennon’s 2019 summer signings has shown remarkable versatility over the last week.