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