Scotland striker Steven Naismith ready to fill in for Leigh Griffiths

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Steven Naismith insists he can provide Scotland with the firepower to shoot down Albania if Leigh Griffiths does not pull through.

The Celtic striker was replaced at half-time during Friday night’s 4-0 friendly defeat to Belgium after appearing to limp through the final stages of the opening period.

Griffiths has struggled with an on-going calf complaint this term and boss Alex McLeish admitted he could take no chances with his main goal threat ahead of Monday’s Nations League opener.

The 28-year-old will undergo tests on Sunday morning to assess whether he can take on Christian Panucci’s Albanians – but Naismith has declared himself ready to step up if Griffiths is forced to pull out.

The Hearts forward was a late call-up to the squad but says after hitting a hat-trick for Craig Levein’s men against St Mirren last weekend, his confidence levels are soaring.

The 31-year-old – who replaced Griffiths at the interval as McLeish’s side were ripped apart by the number two ranked side in the world – said: “I’ve believed since coming back up the road and starting the season well that I can contribute to the national team.

“I’ve now managed to get back in the squad and so I’ve just got to work hard when I’m on the training pitch and in the games to show the manager that I do deserve a place.

“I thought I did well last night. We were playing against one of the best teams in the world so you have to be strategic and pick your moments on when to press these guys because, as we showed, when you
do it wrong you get punished and that’s what happened last night.

Alex McLeish's Scotland take on Albania on Monday
Alex McLeish’s Scotland take on Albania on Monday (Ian Rutherford/PA)

“Am I up for the job of filling in for Leigh if he doesn’t make Monday? Oh definitely, you can’t pick and choose where you play in the national team. But I do feel comfortable up there. I’ve done it at home against Croatia and many other times too. I’ll play where the manager wants me to.

“I definitely feel confident in front of goal. Forward players in general play on confidence and when you’re scoring everything seems that wee bit easier in front of goal, so that’s no different for myself.

“Hopefully if I get any more minutes this week I can take any chances that come my way.”

Friday’s Hampden Park thumping was the Scots’ heaviest home defeat in 45 years.

It could not come at a worst moment as McLeish looks to use the inaugural Nations League tournament to provide his team with a double shot at qualifying for a major finals.

But Naismith is certain his young team-mates will not let their latest disappointment linger.

He said: “To be honest I don’t think we’ll be too down with the result because we are playing against the best in the world. There was a lot of good things on show but we got punished for our mistakes
rather than great play from them.

Belgium ran riot at Hampden Park
Belgium ran riot at Hampden Park (Ian Rutherford/PA)

“These young guys are getting a taste of what it’s like at the top and there’s a lot of them that will move on to the top clubs in the coming years.

“Hopefully we as a squad can do well together and push on to make a finals.”

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