CHRIS Sutton is confident Leigh Griffiths can reclaim his Scotland place from Steven Naismith if he rediscovers his best form with Celtic before the Israel game next month.

Alex McLeish preferred Naismith to Griffiths in the national team’s opening Group C1 match against Albania at Hampden on Monday night - and the Hearts forward repaid his faith in him.

The 31-year-old had a hand in both of his side’s second-half goals in a morale-boosting 2-0 victory that increased the country’s chances of landing a Euro 2020 play-off spot.

Griffiths, who came on towards the end, will have his work cut out displacing the Hearts man before the games against Israel on October 11 and Portugal three days later.

But former Parkhead forward Sutton believes the man who became a hero to the Tartan Army with his late double against England in a Russia 2018 qualifier in Glasgow last year can force his way into contention by performing well at club level domestically and in Europe.

“I don’t necessarily think he (McLeish) is right saying Naismith should start next month,” the former England player said.

“If Leigh Griffiths bangs in three hat-tricks, you pick the man in form. He’ll get more game time and that’ll make a difference. He had injuries, he just needs a run of games and to get up to speed.

“He hasn’t been at the level for Celtic or Scotland that he has in previous seasons. But it’s very early days. But if he got a run of games and banged in goals, he’d have to pick him.

“But he got that decision right on the night. I don’t think he should’ve left out James Forrest, and that isn’t just me wearing my Celtic hat, but Stephen O’Donnell did well.”

Meanwhile, Sutton has predicted that the atmosphere will return to Hampden - once the Scotland team starts performing well again and attracting big crowds.

The SFA announced on Tuesday that they had agreed to buy the stadium from Queen’s Park for £5 million when their current lease expires after the Euro 2020 finals and would not be moving to Murrayfield.

Celtic captain Scott Brown criticised the decision and claimed it was “possibly one of the worst stadiums” for atmosphere that he had played in during his career.

But Sutton said: “I can understand the arguments for and against. I like Murrayfield as a stadium, but I think they were right to stay at Hampden because it is the home of Scottish football.

“Scott Brown’s comments about the lack of atmosphere can be fair but there have also been some great nights and afternoons here and, once the Scottish national team starts doing well, you’ll have full houses again.

“We’ve all seen plenty of good atmospheres there and when the Scotland national team starts doing well again we’ll see more of them.

“I wasn’t at the Scotland v England game last year, but I heard about the atmosphere. I know it was good, but it’s all been a bit flat of late with the national team. We need time to see where it goes from here.”

The games against both Belgium and Albania attracted disappointing crowds and Sutton believes the SFA would be better off taking matches to smaller venues in future.

“The sensible thing seems to be to take games around the country if they’re not going to sell out Hampden,” he said.

Meanwhile, BT Sport pundit Sutton has admitted he was pleased to see McLeish get a win against Albania - because he needs time to transform the fortunes of the national team.

“I actually think Alex McLeish was unfairly judged against Belgium (his side was beaten 4-0 by the Russia 2018 semi-finalists at Hampden on Friday night),” he said.

“He inherited the Belgium game. Playing them was a bit of a mismatch, really. That was unfortunate, Albania was a meaningful game and a big game and I was pleased he got a result.

“Hopefully there’ll be a bit of patience now. There was talk of him being under pressure if he had lost the Albania game. I don’t think that’s fair. Scotland have issues at centre-half. All things need to be taken into account.”

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