Leigh Griffiths has hit back at Scotland boss Gordon Strachan’s claims he is too small to lead the line for his country by changing his Twitter name to #Shorty.
The Celtic hitman responded in light-hearted fashion after his national team manager suggested he did not have the required stature to fill the lone striker’s role on the international stage.
Strachan has gone with Derby’s Chris Martin and Steven Fletcher of Sheffield Wednesday in the Scots’ three World Cup qualifiers so far.
Griffiths, who measures up at 5ft 8in, has been limited to two substitute appearances this time round following on from the grand total of 15 minutes he was given by Strachan during the whole of the Scots’ failed Euro 2016 bid.
The Parkhead ace blasted 40 goals for his club last term but that has not been enough to convince Strachan to give him a start. However, Barry Bannan – two inches shorter at 5ft 6in – started both of Scotland’s recent clashes with Lithuania and Slovakia.
Strachan’s side took just one point from the double header, leaving their hopes of reaching Russia in two years’ time hanging by a thread.
The national team boss, speaking to several Sunday newspapers, replied after he was asked whether Griffiths would have to accept he would only be used as a substitute: “No, I wouldn’t say that. In the 51 games in the Euro Championships the first 19 goals were scored from set plays.
— The Clumpany (@TheClumpany) October 17, 2016
“That means you have to have a certain amount of height to defend corner kicks. I’ll give you an example. The team was a lot smaller at 2-0 than it was at 0-0 (in Slovakia) and the first corner kick we get after that, they score with a header. Does that help you with the certain amount of height that you have to have in my team? There’s absolutely no doubt about it.
“People can argue that toss and debate it. But that is fact. You need to have a certain amount of height in international football teams to defend set plays.
“It’s not just Leigh Griffiths. You’ve got to try and get the balance. I could pick a huge team but there would be a problem passing the ball.
“I could pick the smallest team and they could pass the ball better. But what we’ve struggled with is physical combat in the middle of the park and set plays.
“I’ve got to try and get a balance between height and strength and ability.
“If you’ve got the whole package then that’s a real bonus. Unfortunately we didn’t have too many with the whole package.”
BT Sport pundit Chris Sutton thinks Strachan has called it all wrong and reckons Griffiths should be seething with the way he has been treated.
Speaking as he helped promote BT Sport’s coverage of Celtic’s Champions League clash with Borussia Monchengladbach, he said: “It’s ludicrous. Is Messi too small then?
“I just don’t agree with what Gordon has said at all. It should be horses for courses.
“Scotland went to Slovakia and played a team with two centre-halves in Martin Skrtel and Jan Durica who love the physical side of the game but don’t like being taken in behind.
“They left a striker on the bench who can do just that, so I think that Gordon is absolutely wrong with his point of view.
“He is wrong to play the likes of Chris Martin in front of Leigh Griffiths.
“If you want to win football matches you have to have people who can score goals. I don’t think Leigh is as bad a target man as Gordon is making out.
“What he is, though, is a natural finisher, a match-winner who scored 40 goals last season.
“As players we all had opinions of other players and I if was Leigh Griffiths I’d be severely angry and feel I was the victim of an injustice because he’s a better player than Chris Martin.
“That’s the long and the short of it.”
Sutton reckons one man who does possess all the attributes Strachan is looking for is Oliver Burke.
And that is why he was stunned to see the RB Leipzig winger dumped entirely out of the team which lost 3-0 to the Slovakians despite starting the 1-1 Hampden draw against Lithuania just three days earlier.
“The Oliver Burke situation – what was all that about?” asked Sutton.
“How could he not get a place on a 10-man bench.
“Strachan names two sub goalkeepers but left behind someone who is being talked up as Scotland’s next big talent.
“He found himself two goals down in Slovakia but instead of throwing on someone with bags of power and pace, he left him sitting in the stands.
“What sort of message is that sending out to the boy?”