Brendan Rodgers has assured Leigh Griffiths that his petulance at Firhill has been forgotten about – although the Hoops boss has admitted that had he been so publicly undermined a decade ago the player might not have come back from it.
Griffiths was fuming at being replaced by Scott Sinclair on Thursday night as Celtic hit five goals past the Jags and made his feelings public as he approached the dug-out.
Griffiths exchanged words with Rodgers before throwing a water bottle in frustration, but the Scotland internationalist reported for duty on Friday morning somewhat sheepish after what appears to have been something of a sleepless night.
“Ten years ago as an inexperienced manager, maybe,” said Rodgers when asked if it could have been perceived as the beginning of the end for Griffiths. “He knows there’s a line and if I thought there was something more sinister than that I’d cut it straight away. Make no bones about it.
“He is very much part of what we are doing here. He’s a wonderfully talented boy, and for me it’s about helping him mature.
“I’d a message from Leigh at seven o’clock on Friday morning.
“He just wants to show me and the supporters because he’s been out a lot of the time that he can be fit and playing. Unfortunately for him, it’s my job to protect the team and the whole group – not just one player – in order for us to succeed. He understands that totally now. He was apologetic but like I said to him it’s gone. Just let it go with the wind. It’s gone.”
And Rodgers has also insisted that he is sympathetic to why the player reacted as he did.
“I totally understand where he was at,” he said. “He knows what is acceptable within our ethos and how we work but I have empathy for him and it has been a difficult season for him in terms on injury and illness.
“He has been ill a lot this season and he hasn’t trained as much as he would have wanted to and you think last year all the goals and he was out there every week, but this year has been a bit more difficult for him.
“When he is in the team he wants to play every single minute of every single game to show his worth and the point I was re-iterating to him this morning is that he is such a big part of my thinking here.
“What he didn’t realise in his thinking was the reason for taking him off. He is probably thinking that he wasn’t playing well enough – he was fantastic again – but the idea was to give him a rest knowing that he will start at the weekend and get some game time in and be totally ready for the game against Aberdeen.”
And Rodgers has assured Griffiths that there will be no grudge held against him.
“This is about a unified group. Whatever you feel you keep it inside the changing room,” he explained. We always do that. But I also have empathy for if I was sat in his shoes. If I’d his little head I’d be thinking ‘maybe I didn’t play and I’m trying to show my manager something.
“This about having to accept these kind of scenarios because you can’t play every minute of every game.”