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Clarke: Griffiths was close to return but needs more time

The Scotland boss says it's important not to rush the Celtic striker back into the squad.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has revealed he was close to picking Leigh Griffiths for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers but decided the Celtic striker needs more time.

Griffiths has returned to action for Celtic this season after a spell out to deal with mental health issues. 

The forward has scored twice already and though Clarke rates him, he said the 29-year-old wasn't quite back to his best and wasn't ready to face Russia and Belgium.

"He was close," Clarke said. "Listen, Leigh has got some fantastic attributes. I just look at him just now and he's come a long way in a short space of time after a very difficult spell in his life.

"I feel we should just give him a little more time to settle into the role again at Celtic and get himself fully fit and firing. And a fully fit and firing, sharp Leigh Griffiths will always be good for us.

"But at the moment I just feel it's a little bit too early to push him."

Clarke's squad selection has been partly shaped by injuries, with goalkeeper Scott Bain and defenders John Souttar, Scott McKenna and Michael Devlin all unfit for the double header.

The manager said he had plenty of options in midfield but he would find the right team to deal with the threats from the top two seeds in the qualifying group.

"We're good in midfield," Clarke said. "But we've got lots of good options.

"As a manager you want options. For some of the players there are two club games to go, for other it's just one so fingers crossed there's no more injuries.

"If I've got everyone there then I've got tough decisions but as a manager, that's what you like."

Clarke said it was his intent, where possible, to give players similar roles within his team to the jobs they had at their club sides on a weekly basis.

"It's been good since the start of August to get out and watch a lot of matches, pick up on a lot of players," he said.

"What I want to do if possible, and it's not always possible, is you want to see how club managers are using their players and then when you bring them here you're trying to fit them into the system in the way that suits the individual the best.

"It's been good to watch games and see the players at a really good level. Hopefully we can put on a good show in the two games.

"They are two difficult games, really difficult, but two games we are really looking forward to."

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