SUPERSTAR footballers aren’t usually renowned for their stoicism.
Leigh Griffiths, though, is currently demonstrating plenty of it.
Scotland’s Player of the Year is getting simultaneously overlooked by both club and country right now.
The striker, scorer of 40 goals for Celtic last season, spent the bulk of Scotland’s humiliating loss to Slovakia in midweek watching on, powerless, from the substitutes’ bench.
It was a familiar experience.
Last Saturday he had done the same at Hampden as Chris Martin – a man without a goal in 20 club games – had toiled in vain against Lithuania.
Yet when introduced in both matches, Griffiths provided the sort of directness, aggression and intent Scotland had been so patently lacking.
So why wasn’t he playing from the start in the first place?
“That’s not up to me, that is the manager’s decision,” said the 26-year-old, widely acknowledged as the outstanding talent in last season’s Premiership, but now behind Moussa Dembele at Celtic Park.
“I know a lot of people were commenting on my situation on social media, but the manager picks the best eleven he thinks he can to win the game.
“I’ve bided my time, waiting on the touchline.
“And when I’ve come on, I’ve tried to do my best, trying to get shots away myself and trying to create chances for the other boys.
“I was unlucky against Lithuania last Saturday and I was unlucky again last Tuesday night.
“Next up it is England at Wembley, and I think anybody would like a crack at them.
“First and foremost I’ll go back to Celtic, work hard, and hopefully get back in the team.
“Once in, I need to score goals and, through that, get back in the Scotland squad.
“I’ve been fit for a while. I felt sharp when I came off the bench against Kilmarnock and Dundee.
“Likewise when I came off the bench in both Scotland matches.
“So I’m ready to start games. It’s just about getting the opportunity and about trying to impress the manager.”
Wherein lies the rub.
Because, as the Tartan Army travellers who were booing in Trnava on Tuesday can testify, national coach Gordon Strachan can be contrary.
In his view, asking why the country’s most-prolific goalscorer can’t make it into the national team demonstrates a lack of understanding of the game.
Managers are allowed, expected even, to occasionally back hunches.
But some of Strachan’s preferences are odd in the extreme, with Scotland’s most-expensive-ever footballer, Ross McCormack, and the prolific Jordan Rhodes passed over.
Griffiths’ situation is all the sharper for being on two fronts.
And while, in contrast to Scotland, there is no quibbling with his Celtic situation as Moussa Dembele has been in sensational form, it is nevertheless a significant test of his character.
“We Scots are a hard bunch to knock down,” he said in a reference to the national team’s problems that also covers the individual challenges he is facing.
“We’re disappointed about the loss to Slovakia, but once the boys are back to full focus for their clubs, we will be fine.
“That’s the bread and butter and, hopefully, by the time England comes around, we’ll be ready.
“From a personal point of view, I think I’ll need to bide my time to get back in the Celtic team.
“Moussa’s on fire and the gaffer doesn’t need to move him because he’s been playing so well.
“But if the gaffer can accommodate both of us at the same time, that’ll be great.
“I know, though, if I was in Moussa’s shoes and I got benched, I’d be disappointed.
“But it’s up to the manager what decision he makes to pick a team to win the game.”
The unfortunate thing for the Celt is that he’s out of favour at a time when the Hoops are involved in the kind of matches players spend a lifetime dreaming about.
Brendan Rodgers’ side tackle Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Champions League on Wednesday, followed by Rangers at Hampden in the second of the Betfred Cup semi-finals a week today.
“We will go into the games full of confidence and see what happens,” said the striker.
“At Parkhead we can beat anybody.
“We showed that the last time against Manchester City, when we were unlucky not to get three points.
“I am sure the atmosphere will be absolutely tremendous once again, and it will be great to be involved in the occasion, even if I don’t get a start.
“Obviously, though, if I get a chance, I will try to take it.”
It is a positivity which even extends to Scotland’s, now seemingly-doomed, World Cup qualifying campaign.
“Personally, I think there is still a lot left to play for,” he said.
“With England drawing and Lithuania winning while we were in Slovakia, the group’s still wide open with everything to play for.
“In fact, it looks like it might well be one of those groups that stays tight throughout.
“So we’ll go to Wembley, prepare well and, hopefully, put these last two games behind us.
“Everybody’s always up for Wembley.
“There will be a full house, a lot of fans travelling down to England making a lot of noise and it’s up to us to give them a performance to shout about.
“It’s going to be very tight as they have world-class players.
“But we’ll go there and try and get a positive result.”
A nation demands it.
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