DEEP in the bowels of Hampden, minutes after Scotland had conspired to snatch a devastating last-minute draw from the jaws of victory against the Auld Enemy, Leigh Griffiths trooped into the mixed zone to address the press.

His hangdog expression was that of a man who had just stepped in a steaming pile of dog excrement, rather than a man who had an eye-poppingly expensive magnum of champagne tucked under his arm after bagging a dream double for his country.

And who could blame him? Of all the proud Scots inside a throbbing national stadium that sunny afternoon, he had more reason than most to have absorbed the impact of Harry Kane’s last-gasp boot to the nation’s collective jacksie.

Through no fault of his own, his eternal status as a national icon had been snatched away from him, his chance of a place in the pantheon of greats. Leigh Griffiths, up there with Kenny Dalglish and Denis Law? Well, no, calm down. But close enough. The pain of that realisation was etched excruciatingly all over his face.

“What will you do with your champagne Leigh?” enquired the first brave soul to address him. “Right noo? I want to crack somebody over the heid with it,” came the deadpan response. He didn’t specify who, but there were a host of his teammates he could have justifiably chosen from given what had just happened.

Still, the nation would never forget those glorious minutes he gave us at Hampden in the sun, would it? Well, not for a year at least.

Now, the man who was the toast of the Scottish game is a pariah in many quarters for pulling out of the latest squad to face Israel last night and Portugal on Sunday. There are some who say he should never pull on the dark blue again, and while I wouldn’t go that far, my baser instincts as a Scotland supporter can’t help but feel let down by his decision.

It may be old-fashioned notion, in fact, it almost certainly is, but playing for your country was always something I thought of as the pinnacle. The ultimate honour. So, when a player pulls out for a reason other than having a leg hanging off, then it always rankles. When a player pulls out with no discernible injury at all, then it is little wonder the Tartan Army – if they wore any knickers – would be getting them in a twist.

If Griffiths is indeed worried about his fitness levels and simply hasn’t spat the dummy out at the notion of Steven Naismith starting ahead of him, then why not at least make himself available for last night’s competitive fixture in Israel before sitting out Sunday’s friendly?

If he did indeed get some game-time, then wouldn’t that be the best thing to get him into tip-top shape? Players are forever telling us that there is nothing you can do on the training ground to replicate match-fitness, so his argument in that regard has more holes in it than the Scotland defence in the 94th minute last June.

Another concerning factor in all of this is that Griffiths is not the first Scotland player of late who feels that he can pick and choose when he is available for the cause, with David Marshall and James McArthur among those who have told Alex McLeish they have not retired, but they don’t want to be considered for the time-being. However understandable their individual cases may be, McLeish risks becoming a soft touch by default, with a lack of depth forcing him to accept that he can’t slam the door shut on anyone, however much he would like to.

Sure, club football rules the roost these days, and a player’s loyalty should first and foremost be to his paymasters. That is all well and good, but there is a part of me that wonders too if the last 20 years of failure and the subsequent dwindling of enthusiasm for the national side has taken some of the lustre off those international caps. I would wager that if a few were honest, they view national duty as something of a chore these days the majority of times they are called away.

However, no one who saw Leigh Griffiths that afternoon at Hampden would level that accusation at him. He clearly cares about his country, and for his own sake and that of the nation, I can only hope he sorts out the issues he currently has with the management team and returns to fire us to Euro 2020.

We simply aren’t good enough to do without him.


IT was a shame to see Alan Archibald lose his job at Partick Thistle last weekend, but the cold, hard fact was that a fresh voice was needed at Firhill to turn around their fortunes and rescue their chances of promotion.

But what a run he had. In his reign of almost six years, he oversaw the highs of promotion to the top-flight and a top-six finish (Thistle's highest since the early Eighties), before the lows of relegation last season and the difficult start to this campaign.

Ultimately, that led to his sacking, but such a talented coach should hopefully land on his feet elsewhere.