Former Celtic defender John Hughes has backed Leigh Griffiths to use his axe from Neil Lennon’s pre-season squad as motivation for the coming season, speaking to BBC Sportsound today.

A club spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Record last night that the striker will not be making the upcoming trip to France, stating: “Leigh is undertaking his own fitness programme along with some other players at Lennoxtown and will team up with the squad when they return.”

That came in conjunction with reports that the Scotland international had returned from the summer break heavier than his optimum playing weight, with Neil Lennon said to be annoyed by the situation.

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Griffiths has had a storied history at Celtic Park and this latest setback risks seeing him drop out of contention for a first-team place.

However, Hughes thinks it doesn’t necessarily need to be a negative for the forward.

Speaking to BBC Sportsound on Sunday, he explained: “Lenny has put a marker down to the rest of the players. He’s said ‘I’m the gaffer here and there’s no rules for some and rules for others’.

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“I just hope it might be the wake-up call for Leigh to work morning, noon and night, nutrition and everything so that when they come back from France he’ll be right at it.

“This could be the best thing that happens to Leigh. If he hears this and says ‘I’ll show these guys’ and gets himself back in the team and scoring and in the Scotland squad then fantastic.

“I love Leigh, he is a lovable rogue. I signed him as a kid at 15 for Falkirk when he was playing for Leith Athletic. I just hope he can get his head down, get fit and play a massive part in that challenge to get that 10 in a row.”

Griffiths certainly looked impressive as part of a two-man attack with Odsonne Edouard at the start of 2020.

He scored eight goals in 13 matches between January and March, keeping new signing Patryk Klimala out of the side.

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Polish 21-year-old now has a big opportunity to impress though and will be hoping the upcoming trio of French friendlies can be a springboard towards his own partnership with Edouard.

Griffiths again has it all to prove and hopefully is working harder than ever at Lennoxtown while most of his teammates are off ramping up their own preparations for the new season.

He’s a quality player on his day and knows his way to goal.

However, if he doesn’t have the fitness he simply isn’t going to make the grade with Lennon.

This season is too important for sub-standard training work.

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