Leigh Griffiths came back from a long lay-off and in Leigh Griffiths-style stole the show with a goal on his return. I’ve been through similar injury problems and know how tough it can be – so it made me smile to see a player put the hard times behind him and return on top form. I’ve returned from a long lay-off – but with a very different outcome.

I returned home from the European Under-19s in Poland with a runner up medal in my back pocket and the Celtic first team in my sights. I came back thinking I was Bertie Big Bollocks but was quickly brought back to earth when we landed at Glasgow airport and the reserve manager called to say we were to play in Kenny Arthur’s testimonial in Maryhill the next day. In a tribute to Kenny’s career, I dropped my bag in shock at the news. We were given a guard of honour that Chic Charnley would usually receive at the ground on his return from a weekender. I love Chic! What a guy! He was playing centre midfield for Thistle that day and within 30 seconds, with a smile wider than his Glasgow patter, announced that I’d done f*** all and he was going to make it his priority to terrorise me. Three nutmegs later and I was sitting on the bench watching the great man stroll about like he should have been wearing one of the Spain strips I’d faced 2 days earlier. Although, knowing Chic, it definitely would have been a fake one from the Barras!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a week later while away to Dundee United, I nicked the ball away from Barry Robson who in turned blootered me like only an angry ginger could – straight away I knew my ankle was gubbed. At first, I was told it would be six-to-eight weeks before I’d be back fully fit. Two and a half years (and stone) later, I was still sitting in the treatment room with my ankle as swollen as my waistband. I don’t think anything in life prepares you for the feeling of looking out at your mates training and preparing for Champions League matches knowing the closest you would get to it was the Pro Evo tournament I’d have with Nicky Riley and Dean Richardson.

We’d have to take an ice bucket home and that plus our lack of sleep led to a great injury story. As we were unable to drive due to our injuries, goalkeeper Mark Brown kindly offered to pick us up. One day he came in a brand spanking new BMW. On the drive there, he was talking about how hard he’d worked in his career and how he was so happy to be able to go from a Ford Focus to this tremendous new motor. We were so inspired by the story and that grateful for the lift that in tribute to Mark’s career Nicky dropped the full ice bucket over the back seat of the brand new white leather Beemer. I’ve seen Brooner concede six goals in a five minute training game – but no anger compared to this.

You have to laugh when you’re injured, and lunch was the only moment of the day that your spirits would be lifted. Nights out were like my Champions League final and I was proudly named man of the match on several occasions. All the staff were great with me. The physios and doctors would understand when I came in rougher than Ruchazie on a Wednesday or Sunday when the other boys were off. Things got so bad that on my last attempt and third operation to fix my ankle, the specialist told me if things didn’t go well that would be me finished.

Tommy Burns heard the news and waited for me to ask how I was feeling. I told him I was fine and I’d sorted a job with my mate as a sparky should it come to that. After he pissed himself laughing at the thought, and then telling me how hopeless I would be at that job, I did drop in that my mum was worried sick and never thought any more of it. That night, my mum phoned me to tell me Tommy had called her work to tell her he would look after me and not to worry – he’d put me through my coaching badges and give me a job if worst came to the worst.

Gordon Strachan was similar. He sat next to me one day up the gym and told me not to worry and how I’d be fine in life. I eventually got back fit and my first game back was a Tuesday night at Airdrie against Aberdeen. Anyone who knows the reserves scene back in the day could tell you that a night out in Karbon was pencilled in win, lose or draw. Of course, I got sent off after 15 mins and sadder than doing an hour on the hand bike I walked into the dressing room at Airdrie devastated. The disappointment quickly left and with my mind already on Karbon I made my way into the bathroom to fix my hair! As I turn around, with a curly fringe now straight, Gordon Strachan was standing watching me in disbelief and, like only an angry ginger could, wanted to boot me harder than Barry Robson did the first time round. Strangely enough, he then put me straight into the first team squad! I’ve no doubt it was to boost my confidence as there’s no way it was based on the 15 min cameo. Maybe he’d heard about my performance in the Champions League in Karbon that night. Who knows?

I’m sure there are similarities in Leigh’s journey. Neil Lennon and the staff at Celtic park will have done all they can to help him. I also assume there have been a few differences – Leigh has no hair to fix on his first game back! In all seriousness, I’m delighted to see him back. Anybody who’s ever spoken to him knows how much he loves playing and scoring goals!