SPEAKING on BBC Sportsound last night pundit Michael Stewart revealed some of the background to the decision taken yesterday by Leigh Griffiths to pull out of the Scotland squad.
We know that the Celtic striker had been blanking the Scotland manager’s phone calls. We know this because, rather than keep it private, McLeish choose to spill the beans to his pals in the press.
And it’s not just the treatment that Leigh Griffiths is receiving from McLeish. Look at the way in which James Forrest turned up for two games – one a friendly – and was left sitting in the bench as an unused substitute in both matches.
Forrest scored four goals on Sunday so is bang in form – that was the logic for playing Steven Naismith was it not? It will be (slightly) interesting to see whether four goals in a game is enough to get you into McLeish’s Scotland side.
Here’s what Michael Stewart said in BBC Sportsound last night.
“Leigh Griffiths is for me, our number one striker and I can understand why he was annoyed.
“The game against Belgium was a thankless task. He’s playing up front on his own against the second best team in the world at that point and then he gets dropped for the Albania game.
“I don’t understand how you can be so frustrated you drop him for the Albania when you know there’s going to be lots of chances. There’s no long term strategic planning thinking dropping him after that one game.
“This is clearly off the back of the Belgium game where I am led to believe Griffiths was absolutely hammered in the changing room by the staff.”
As manager McLeish has flopped everywhere except for a successful period at Ibrox when he was a fully participating member of the biggest cheating scandal in the British game operated by David Murray. McLeish pocketed his own £1.7million EBT cash and sat by and watched almost an entire squad being funded in this underhand and immoral manner. It ultimately led to the demise of the Ibrox club when it was liquidated in 2012.
McLeish flopped at both Birmingham and Aston Villa and had a long period out of the game before he was offered the Scotland job, which he had previously left to take up the manager’s role at Birmingham City.
It is fair to say that he is not a popular figure at either Birmingham side, especially at Villa where he is regarded as their worst ever managerial appointment – and Villa fans reckons that is a tough poll to top!
Yesterday former the Celt and McLeish’s Assistant Peter Grant came out and said all the right things, even if things were different in the background, Grant was doing his best to smooth over the cracks in this Scotland set-up which few reckon will be successful.
McLeish though could not hold the party line even with his own Assistant Manager and weighed into the row with Griffiths – who just about all the Tartan Army fans would regard as Scotland’s top (or only) striker.
“It is his personal decision. It is up to Leigh to see what happens in the future,” McLeish said.
“There are no guarantees. He knows that. That is how I left it.
“I had a conversation with him at the weekend. He feels he has got to work on his fitness. He pulled himself out. He wants to be honest with himself and about the situation.
“We are happy that there are no other call-offs. We go forward.”
Griffiths has denied that he is in the huff and instead is determined to work on his fitness after receiving criticism from other quarters including Chris Sutton on BT Sport and more importantly from Brendan Rodgers, who was animated on the touchline at McDiarmid Park towards his number 9 on Sunday, before replacing him with Scotty Sinclair.
“Playing for Scotland still means the world to me,” Griffiths said.
“I’m hugely patriotic and passionate about representing my country. Despite what some people will think, I have not taken the huff about potentially sitting on the bench over in Israel.”
Goalkeeper Craig Gordon is another who could look at the way McLeish is behaving towards the Celtic players in his squad.
McLeish stated that both Gordon and Allan McGregor – the Rangers goalkeeper currently serving a lifetime ban from playing for Scotland – would each get a game in the last two matches to see who is best.
Gordon was up against the Belgians and lost 4 goals whereas McGregor kept a clean sheet. McLeish will now go with McGregor as his number one with another Celtic player being pushed to the sidelines.
McGregor’s clean sheet was against Albania. Naismith’s goals was against Albania.
The one thing that is clear from all of this is that Scotland under McLeish are going nowhere fast.
Do you agree with Leigh Griffiths? Has James Forrest and Craig Gordon also been harshly treated by Scotland manager Alex McLeish? Let’s here what you think over on the new Celtic fans forum Celtic Noise…