Scotland boss Alex McLeish won't throw Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths 'under a bus'

Leigh Griffiths in action for Scotland against Albania
Griffiths came on as a substitute against Albania after being left out of the starting side
Nations League League C, Group 1: Israel v Scotland
Venue: Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa Date: Thursday, 11 October Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Alex McLeish says he won't throw Leigh Griffiths "under a bus" after he withdrew from the Scotland squad.

The national boss is adamant he does not feel let down by the Celtic striker pulling out of the party to face Israel and Portugal, saying "it was big" of him to admit he must get fitter.

But he admitted he could not guarantee he would pick Griffiths - or any player - unless they were performing strongly.

"You have to respect Leigh's decision," McLeish said.

"I'm not going to throw him under a bus. He came to the games the last time round and there was no animosity whatsoever.

"I can see in a player's body language they don't like not playing. I could see that not only with Leigh Griffiths but a number of players.

"It's natural and I think it's big of him to say he needs to get fitter to play at these levels. He wants to concentrate on his fitness. I had a good chat with him on Saturday."

Griffiths admitted it felt like a "kick in the teeth" when he was omitted from the starting line-up for Scotland's last game, a 2-0 win over Albania in their Nations League opener.

He was replaced at half-time three days earlier in the 4-0 friendly defeat by Belgium with McLeish later saying the striker was suffering with a calf problem.

Asked if he would pick Griffiths, 28, in future, the head coach added: "You can't guarantee anybody.

"People will chastise me for saying I can't guarantee that Leigh won't play but I can't guarantee any player a game unless they are playing to a level we want them to be at.

"So everybody has got to prove themselves every single week of their football career. That was the way I went about it and I'd expect all the Scotland lads to do the same thing.

"I guess when the manager gets some kind of rhythm there's a nucleus that will always start a game or very close to that. It will be there for others to force themselves in. We want competition."

'It isn't a question of his desire to play for Scotland'

Griffiths' Celtic team-mate Callum McGregor, who started both of Scotland's games last month, says the squad will support the striker in his quest to return to peak condition.

"We are disappointed not to have him with us," McGregor said. "We know when he is fit and firing how big a threat he is.

"But ultimately he knows his own body and what he needs to be at the peak level. We have got to trust him on that and give him our support to get back to that top level.

"He has been here before and knows what it takes to play at international level. It is another step up from your club stuff.

"You have to be there mentally and physically and put those demands on yourself. If you are not there, you quickly get found out.

"He must feel himself he is slightly off that level he needs to be at. It isn't a question of his desire to play for Scotland. It is just at his moment he feels maybe he is not at the peak level."

My Scotland team to face Israel

Top Stories