Scott Brown told his Celtic team-mate Leigh Griffiths to show some backbone when the striker declared himself unable to continue during the second half in Scotland’s World Cup qualifying win over Slovenia last month.
Brown, however, had to apologise when scans showed that Griffiths had suffered a fracture of his third vertebra when he was kneed in the spine by the Slovenian goalkeeper, Jan Oblak.
Three weeks later, Griffiths has returned to training but might make an appearance during Celtic’s visit to Ross County for the televised Easter Sunday lunchtime fixture. “Thankfully, it has healed pretty quickly and I am back on the training pitch. “I just thought it was a knock and I wanted to play on in the second half,” he said.
“I had missed a couple of chances in the first half and I didn’t want to let the country down. I started the second half but I couldn’t run anymore and that’s why I slumped to the ground.
“Broony was giving me a bit of stick, saying that he wanted me to carry on, and he carried on with the stick until I got the results of the scan back and his face dropped when he heard it was a fracture. So, I got a bit of an apology from him. It has cleared up and hopefully I have a clear run to the end of the season.”
Griffiths admitted that he has endured frustration at the stop-start nature of a campaign which saw him displaced as Celtic’s first-choice striker by Moussa Dembélé – scorer of 32 goals since his arrival from Fulham last summer – and beset by fitness problems. “I can’t complain,” he said.
“If a striker is in form and scoring goals then you can’t have any complaints. You just have to wait your turn. The big man has been on fire all season and I have to bide my time again. The team is the most important thing.
“Injuries haven’t helped me and at times I have tried to come back too quickly and broken down again, and that’s the most frustrating bit, but my calves are feeling good and I am feeling good now. We have a massive game with Scotland [against England] in June and hopefully I will be available for that.”
Aberdeen, whose winning run at home ended when they lost 3-0 to Rangers last Sunday, have fended off another challenge from the Ibrox club, it appears. Reports have suggested that the Rangers manager, Pedro Caixinha, hopes to sign the Dons midfielder, Ryan Jack, during the summer.
Jack’s contract expires in six weeks, but Derek McInnes stated that the 25-year-old will move to England if he cannot be persuaded to extend hisdeal. The Aberdeen manager, whose team travel to Perth to meet St Johnstone today intent on closing in on the Scottish Premiership’s runners-up spot, said: “Ryan gave me assurances that there has been no contact, that he doesn’t anticipate contact and that it’s not something he’s interested in. Ryan feels that he is really happy here.
“He hasn’t ruled out staying here and we’re all hoping that he will, but if he does decide to move on his likely destination will be England. He sees that maybe being his next opportunity, so there’s absolutely nothing in it and you have to question the reason for it, whether it’s to try and destabilise us or whatever.
“I have been assured by Ryan - and I trust Ryan - that he nor his agent have had any contact with Rangers.”
Rangers, meanwhile, have been regenerated by a more direct style of play introduced by Caixinha, according to the Ibrox striker, Martyn Waghorn. “It’s a better, quicker, direct style of play which all the forward boys are going to enjoy,” said the 27-year-old.
Asked if the team had overcomplicated its approach under Caixinha’s predecessor, Mark Warburton, Waghorn said: “I think at times we did try and overplay.
“The manager wants us, when we play through lines to stay through lines, and attack the box as quickly as we can. As a striker, it is nice to know we are going to be getting the ball in the box and get chances.”
Waghorn started the season with five goals in four games but was thwarted by hamstring problems and found his momentum faltering. “I was disappointed with how I performed in the first half of the season,” said the former Wigan striker.
“That’s in the past now. I am pleased that I am playing and getting a run of games. “I have enjoyed the hard work and I think it has shown at the weekend how we defend as a team now as well as attacking as a team.”