Leigh Griffiths has acknowledged he faces a “long road back” to playing first team football after Celtic announced he will return to the club this week.
The Scotland striker has been absent since December when it was revealed he would be taking time out of football to deal with mental health issues.
Celtic say Griffiths will initially undergo fitness and performance work with the club’s medical and sports science staff at their Lennoxtown training ground. There is no immediate prospect of the 28-year-old rejoining the rest of the first team squad for full training. Griffiths last played for Celtic on 8 December and has scored six goals in 20 appearances this season. Earlier in the season, he signed a new contract committing himself to the club until 2022.
In a statement released by Celtic, he expressed his gratitude for the backing he has received during his recovery period away from the club and stressed his determination to give every effort to earn a return to first team action.
“I’d like to thank everyone for showing me such support across the past few months,” said Griffiths. “I am so grateful to the club for everything they have given me and the way in which they have supported me so strongly.
“The Celtic supporters, too, have been a huge source of inspiration and strength for me and I want to thank them all sincerely for staying with me. I know it will be a long road back but I am ready to do all I can to get there.”
Griffiths has scored 104 goals in 2o2 appearances for Celtic since he was signed from Wolves in 2014 during Neil Lennon’s first spell as manager.
Now back in interim charge of the Scottish champions following Brendan Rodgers’ departure to Leicester City last month, Lennon has suffered from well-publicised mental health issues of his own during his career. He is eager to play his part in ensuring Griffiths’ return is properly managed.
“We are really pleased that Leigh will be looking to get things going again at Lennoxtown and be making a phased return to training,” said Lennon.
“In no way will we put any timescale on a possible return to the first team. Instead, we will make sure we work with him on the best, most productive way forward.
“He will really be focusing on his own programme at the moment and then we will see what progress we make from there. We will not rush him in any way and we will allow him, of course, to take things slowly and at the pace he is comfortable with.
“As the club has been doing throughout the last period, we’ll continue to give Leigh every support to make sure that his health and well-being are our number one priority.
“We’ll work with him to ensure he has everything he needs to give him the chance to get back to where he was, but understanding totally that he will need time and space.
“It will be great to see him back, even at this very early stage, and we’ll make sure we
give him our total support.”