Grif­fiths needs to be more com­mit­ted, says Rodgers

He may have scored 40 goals last sea­son, but Celtic man­ager wants more from striker


THERE will be man­agers up and down the land who would love a cen­tre-for­ward who does noth­ing but score goals. Brendan Rodgers, though, isn’t one of them. The Celtic man­ager con­tin­ues to take a holis­tic view of his squad and their ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and it is a stand­point that doesn’t au­gur well for Leigh Grif­fiths. The striker may have scored 40 goals last sea­son but that’s not enough for Rodgers, who wants every player in the group to make a more rounded con­tri­bu­tion. “There will be no in­di­vid­ual big­ger than the team,” said the Celtic man­ager in what sounded very much like a warning to Grif­fiths about his fu­ture in­volve­ment.

The 26-year-old has en­dured some­thing of a stop-start sea­son, his progress hin­dered both by the form of Moussa Dem­bele and a num­ber of mi­nor in­juries. Rodgers looks at the lat­ter fac­tor and won­ders aloud whether that is some­thing that could be erad­i­cated from Grif­fiths’s make-up if the player were to show a greater com­mit­ment and at­ti­tude both in train­ing and in his life­style away from the club.

Rodgers has stated re­peat­edly this sea­son that his pri­mary task as Celtic man­ager is to make his play­ers bet­ter, but it seems in Grif­fiths he has run into some­thing of a brick wall. He re­tains a fond­ness for the Scot­land in­ter­na­tional – “he’s a real good kid, a re­ally good boy” – but it also be­comes clear that his pa­tience with him may be run­ning out.

“I want to help him,” said Rodgers. “If he can re­ally fo­cus in on [what hap­pens] out­side of the football field he can be a con­sis­tent player for a num­ber of years at the top level. If not, it might prove to be very dif­fi­cult for him.

“That’s about the life­style of a foot­baller. You have to live it right. Un­for­tu­nately for him, he’s in this cy­cle of break­ing down. It is not by co­in­ci­dence that he is in­jured con­sis­tently. If you are not train­ing well then you go into a game and then, be­cause of the in­ten­sity, it catches you out and you feel a bit tight.

“You have to train well, work well. He’s a good boy. He’s not a prob­lem. He’s a very spir­ited young man which I love. He’s got per­son­al­ity. But hope­fully he’ll have seen pro­gres­sion in lots of play­ers here through this way of work­ing. It’s to­tal de­vo­tion to be­ing a foot­baller. If he can do that, he can sus­tain be­ing a top-class young striker – not just in Scot­land – but at Cham­pi­ons League level. If not, it can be dif­fi­cult. “This isn’t new. It is not some­thing that I have just said to him now. This is from the begin­ning of the sea­son. It is why the likes of [Dedryck] Boy­ata can come in hav­ing hardly played a game all sea­son and play to the level he has. Why? Be­cause every sin­gle day of his life he is train­ing, he is work­ing, he is pre­par­ing men­tally for the op­por­tu­nity. “It’s why Cal­lum McGre­gor at 10 min­utes’ notice can come into a game like on Sun­day and per­form at 90 min­utes at a high level, with big in­ten­sity, when he hasn’t fea­tured so much re­cently. Why? Be­cause he lives his life right, be­cause he is pre­par­ing well, be­cause he is tac­ti­cally ready.

“Whether he is start­ing or not start­ing he is pre­pared to play. If not, they come in and get in­jured af­ter 15 min­utes, 20 min­utes. You can’t not train hard, not train well and then go into a game and ex­pect to pick up the tempo, es­pe­cially with the way we press and the way we run. If you are not pre­pared for that then you go over the edge.”

De­spite not play­ing reg­u­larly, Grif­fiths still has 13 goals for the sea­son but his man­ager thinks that does not atone for other fail­ings.

“It was the same last year. He would have played but did he train [well]? My point is you can score 40 goals in a sea­son and that is okay from an in­di­vid­ual per­spec­tive, but I am wor­ried about the team and the ethos of the team and how we work every day. It is some­thing that Leigh knows.

“I don’t need 40 goals from him. I said when I came in it was no use get­ting 40 goals from one player and no-one else scor­ing. I said I wanted mul­ti­ple goalscor­ers so even if he only got 20 goals we’d get the rest from some­where else.

“It has to be about the ethos of the team. You saw the ex­am­ple on Sun­day [against Hearts]. We were with­out Leigh, Moussa, [Stu­art] Arm­strong, and [Tom] Rogic – all goalscor­ers. Yet we still man­aged to find a way. That’s why we cre­ate the team to be that way. We’re not re­liant on an in­di­vid­ual.

“Tal­ent alone is not enough. Leigh is a tal­ent but I have to push ev­ery­thing and some­times that’s the wee bit that can make the dif­fer­ence with a player to reach the next level.”

Pic­tures: SNS

TOUGH AT THE TOP: Leigh Grif­fiths has strug­gled to ce­ment his place in Brendan Rodgers’s (be­low) side.

FER­GU­SON: ‘We are down to the bare bones but I am look­ing for a re­ac­tion.’

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