THERE are few people better placed to assess the value of a fully fit and firing Leigh Griffiths than John Collins. After all, he had a ringside seat as Celtic assistant manager when the striker was at the peak of his powers, smashing home 40 goals just three seasons ago.

That’s why he is so sure that the striker could make a huge difference not only for Celtic, but especially for Scotland, if he was back to his best, and why the fate of the nation’s bid to get to a major championship for the first time in over two decades may rest on him doing just that.

“Leigh Griffiths has proved what he can do when he is firing on all cylinders,” Collins said. “He needs to get himself fit and back playing regularly for Scotland. Only then will he be an option for the Scotland manager. But he is a finisher. He’s got a left foot as good as anyone in football.

“Steven Fletcher is another. He came back into the national team at the start of the year and played a couple of excellent games for the national team. He’s a different type of striker to Leigh. He holds it up and retains possession with his back to goal.

“Steven Naismith is another. He gives you that hustle, that bustle, that work rate. None of them were available. If they were back could I see Scotland getting a result against Russia. Yes. They would definitely make the team better.

“No disrespect to young Brophy. He’s had a good season for Kilmarnock and came in and worked. But he’s maybe one for the future. It’s a huge step up especially against teams like Belgium and Russia but not Cyprus or San Marino.

“When you’re up against teams fighting for a qualifying place you’re up against quality.”

Collins doesn’t want to imagine that Scotland might not be involved in at least one of the Euro 2020 matches that will take place at Hampden next summer, remembering how the country was at fever pitch when the tournament last skirted so close to our borders.

“Euro 96 was a special event for all of us and it felt like a home tournament with the Tartan Army flooding down south,” he said. “Everybody remembers that tournament.

“It would be disappointing to miss out but with play-offs we will never have a better opportunity of reaching a finals.

“It has been too long now, over 20 years. Fingers crossed for everybody, the fans, the players and the staff, we can make it this time.

“There is nothing better than when Scotland are involved in a tournament.”

Collins was at Hampden yesterday to get behind UEFA’s flagship international tournament, with the Euros now a year away, but he is less impressed by the organisation’s running of their premier club competition.

In particular, he feels that the number of qualifiers that champions from smaller leagues like Celtic have to play is unfair, but he feels that new proposals to expand the tournament is the wrong way to combat the problem.

Instead, he would like to see the number of games players have to play reduced.

“You’ve got to seriously question it when Ajax have to go through qualifying after reaching the semi-final,” he said. “That has to be changed.

“I’d have to know exactly what it entails, but if it means more games in midweek, then I’m not so sure that the players and the clubs can cope with many more.

“From Celtic’s point of view, it’s always very difficult to play three or four qualifying rounds before a ball is kicked.

“It’s hard work for the management team and the players to have such a short break before such important games in pre-season. It’s not ideal.

“That should be lessened. It’s really unfair. But it is what is, and they just have to get on with it.