SCOTT BROWN thinks Celtic team-mate Leigh Griffiths has been “brave” in opting out of Scotland duty – and only wishes he had done the same.
The Parkhead skipper retired from international football back in February and knows how tough it is juggling commitments for club and country.
He announced his initial decision to hang-up his Scotland boots in the summer of 2016 as a series of persistent injuries began to take a toll on his Hoops career – only to reverse it two months later after a personal appeal from former boss Gordon Strachan.
He played on until earlier this year as the arrival of Brendan Rodgers at Celtic Park breathed fresh life into the former Hibernian battlers’ weary legs.
But Brown admits Scotland and Celtic might have seen the best of him earlier had he taken a similar decision to Griffiths, who is sitting out this week’s double header with Israel and Portugal to work on his fitness.
He said: “It’s brave of the wee man to have done that because he wants to work on his fitness, he wants to come in here and do better.
“Maybe going away with Scotland, he wouldn’t have got the game time that he expected. The training wouldn’t have been as hard with the two games coming up.
“Scotland and Celtic need Leigh as fit as he possibly can be for the whole season so he has done the best thing for him right now. If he can get himself as sharp as possible, then he becomes the best striker in Scotland by far.
“He scores goals and that’s why he keeps playing in the team – but he just needs that little bit of a break.
“For me, I should have been braver and sat out a couple of games and tried to get myself as fit as possible instead of playing through a couple of injuries here and there.”
Griffiths’ decision to snub Thursday’s crucial Nations League clash in Haifa as well as Sunday’s Hampden friendly came as a surprise and sparked speculation over a fall-out out with boss Alex McLeish.
Both manager and player have shot down that gossip and now Brown wants the whispering campaign to hush as he called for the Tartan Army to get behind Griffiths.
“You’re always going to get a but of flak, that’s part and parcel of the job,” he said.
“Everyone wants to see the wee man scoring 40 goals a season, putting free-kicks in against England and that’s what he will get back to. It’s just a matter of time.
“Leigh and Alex spoke and I think they’ve dealt with the situation quite well.
“Leigh will go on and have a great Scotland career and I’m sure he will score a lot more goals as well.
“But I think it’s time for him to work on his fitness right now. He’s said he’s not feeling his best and he wants to get back to that.
“I remember him showing what a top quality player he is against England at Hampden. He was holding the ball up, running the channels. We had to defend a lot and had to rely on the wee man but he produced with the two free-kicks he put in the top corner.
“People forget about that. That’s what Leigh does and what he will get back to. People need to stop giving him flak and start praising him a little bit for what he’s done over the last three or four years for Celtic and for Scotland.”