A ROUTINE pre-season game to ease in the campaign is rarely seen as any kind of landmark.

Yet, for Leigh Griffiths, Wednesday night’s kickabout against Pinkafeld in the Austrian heat might come to be regarded as one of the key moments of his career.

It is seven months since Griffiths last experienced the simple pleasure of knocking a ball into the back of a net, something he has done with regularity in his professional career.

Griffiths’ removal from the first-team fray at Lennoxtown last December was the culmination of a hundred little time-bombs, only truly appreciated as the ticking got steadily louder.

Social media was awash with rumours and innuendo before then-Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers had to take the unusual step of explaining that his striker was going to be out of football for an indefinite period. The player himself was candid this week as he spoke about the possibility that he might well have done himself “serious harm” if things had been left to continue unchecked.

Whatever is still there in Griffiths’ personal life – and it is his personal life no matter how much he plays his football in a city that likes to lay claim to its players – will require ongoing support. Only time will reveal whether being back in the familiar environment of a football pitch will act like a comfort blanket for the 28-year-old. There were plenty of observers who felt that seven months out of action was too long for Griffiths to come back.

There is a sense of devilment about the striker, he likes to ham it up for the supporters, but the only thing that will truly endear him is staying among the goals.

That spikiness that he carries might auger well for him over these next few months. It is not the first time that he will have been invited to silence those who thought they knew best.

With 104 goals for Celtic in a five-year career, Griffiths has made his name at a club where few were entirely sold on him when he first arrived. As the bar has been raised along the way he was able to respond in kind but coming back from the grim hole of depression is a different entity altogether.

In Neil Lennon there is some semblance of safety. For all that Griffiths praised Rodgers for his part in recognising his battles with mental-health issues, there was a repeated sense that the striker tried Rodgers’ patience with hints about his application and lifestyle frequently woven into conversation.

Lennon, though, is not just the man who signed Griffiths for Celtic but also one who knows the path he has been down of late.

And no one would have been more heartened to see Griffiths back among the action than new Scotland manager Steve Clarke. Those Hampden free-kicks flying past the reach of Joe Hart seemed like a long way away.

As Clarke looks to inject a bit of life into the Scotland side he could do with a player who knows the way to goal. They are not strewn too readily around the national side.

But one pre-season goal is just a start. Griffiths himself might sleep a little easier for having got that first game and first goal out of the way and relieved that it was a little bit out of spotlight coming where and when it did.

The hard work, though, is just beginning. There is every chance that another striker could be brought into Celtic Park before the summer window closes. There is every chance that Griffiths has it all to do again when it comes to presenting a compelling case for regular inclusion. There is every chance that there will be challenging days ahead for the striker.

That he is given the support to navigate them and the privacy to do so seems like a straightforward request but the sight of the player back on a football pitch should be applauded.