Scotland under-21 boss Billy Stark has urged Leigh Griffiths to concentrate on football and earn a international recall after the Hibs striker was left out of young Scots’ latest squad.
Griffiths, who has earned ten under-21 caps, was omitted from the team to face Holland in a European Championship qualifier at St Mirren Park a week tomorrow, with Stark citing the former Livingston striker’s recent ill-discipline at club level – and subsequent lack of game time due to suspension – as the reason.
Griffiths has earned three suspensions in the last ten weeks, each time for making obscene gestures towards supporters during a match, and has missed four matches for Hibs as a result.
“We felt that there has been so much happening with Leigh – he’s had three suspensions and, because of that, he hasn’t played,” said Stark. “There’s a good opportunity now for Leigh to get his head down. I felt he should concentrate on his football and not have reason to grab headlines for the wrong reasons.”
Asked whether the omission of Griffiths was due to the nature of his suspension or the player’s lack of game time, Stark said: “It amounts to the same thing: suspensions mean you don’t play. Nobody’s angels, and he’s a young boy. I was a young boy myself once and did daft things.”
The proportion of Hibs players in the under-21 set-up has been halved, with an influx of new faces putting paid to the involvement of Griffiths and left-back Callum Booth. However, Paul Hanlon, the Easter Road centre-half, will remain captain of Stark’s side.
The national team manager said: “Paul’s been in the game almost as long as me! He has had trials and tribulations this season, but as a young centre-half he has done well at Hibs. People look at Hibs losing goals, but Paul Hanlon is doing well.”
The exclusion of Booth is due to a combination of a niggling injury and the form of Old Firm loan pair – and Booth’s fellow left-backs – Lewis Toshney and Darren Cole.
“There are always difference circumstances affecting players, particularly at under-21 level with many not playing at any given time.
“Callum has featured [for Scotland under-21s] recently, but he’s carrying a wee injury just now. Toshney at Kilmarnock [on loan from Celtic] and Cole at Partick [from Rangers] are doing well in his position. Callum is good going forward but has suffered in the Hibs back four this season. He has good balance and is still in our thoughts.”
Across the city, Hearts reserve goalkeeper Mark Ridgers has been handed a call-up by Stark, but there was no place for midfielder Scott Robinson, who has appeared frequently for the Jambos first team in recent weeks.
“I have a long list of midfielders,” explained Stark. “Robinson doesn’t figure this time, but we’ll see him back in a Scotland jersey, I’m sure.”