Billy Stark believes that Leigh Griffiths is as natural and composed a finisher as Moussa Dembele – but has urged the striker not to throw his career away.

Stark gave Griffiths his first senior cap – as well as calling him into squads at under-19 and under-21 level for Scotland.

The striker is believed to be in contention for a place in Celtic’s squad for the weekend visit of Hamilton Accies and former Scotland under-21 boss Stark has urged the striker to rouse himself from recent troubles.

Read more: Knuckle down Leigh, Billy Stark warns Celtic striker Griffiths

Griffiths was the subject of a stinging and public rebuke from Brendan Rodgers last month when the Celtic manager questioned his lifestyle choices after another injury set-back this season.

The Scotland internationalist was sidelined with a calf injury, with Rodgers believing that the reason for the stream of niggling injuries this term came down to not looking after his body properly.

Griffiths has not played for Celtic this year after his recent injury problem and it was clear when Rodgers spoke about the situation that the Hoops’ manager’s patience was at breaking point.

And Stark hopes that it is words which are taken on board.

“To me, Leigh doesn’t have the physicality of Moussa but he is every bit as natural and cool a finisher as the lad,” said Stark.

“He is also excellent in the air – you see him hang in there waiting to connect with the ball – and I do think that he still has that potential to be a major player for Celtic, just as he was last season.

“But it is quite clear to everyone that he has to knuckle down and train the way he plays.

“Leigh wasn’t one of the guys who rubbed his hands and got too enthusiastic about training. He was quite open about not being entirely motivated when it came to training but when it came to games, he gave his all.

“He worked his backside off and he gave everything for the team which is why he was able to be half-hearted when it came to training. He could never have labelled as lazy in games.”

Read more: Knuckle down Leigh, Billy Stark warns Celtic striker Griffiths

“But Brendan is a new breed of managers. Like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, he wants to train the way he plays. And that is high intensity, hard work on the training field. If you aren’t prepared to do that then it is quite obvious that you won’t be playing.”

Griffiths netted 40 goals across the board for Celtic last season as he scooped the Player of the Year award.

He was easily Celtic’s most influential performer and yet within the opening month of the season opening he had been usurped by Dembele.

That in itself was due to an injury at the start of the season which gave the teenage French striker his opportunity, a chance that he quickly used to make a name for himself.

Dembele remains highly sought after with a clutch of European and Premier League clubs keeping tabs on him with Chelsea maintaining the interest that they showed in January.

However, while Griffiths may have contented himself at times this season with the thought that if Dembele moves on from Glasgow this summer that he will pick up the goal trail again, he may have to think again given Rodgers’ scathing comments.

“I thought he had calmed down and matured a wee bit,” said Stark. “I just hope for his own sake that he finds his focus and gets the head back down because he is a naturally talented boy.

“He needs to be big enough to take the criticism on the chin. He has had one absolutely cracking season for Celtic which should have given him an appreciation of where the hard work can take him.

“Any manager who chooses to go public with their criticism does it to try and get a response from the player – but there is another aspect too that Brendan will be well aware of.

Read more: Knuckle down Leigh, Billy Stark warns Celtic striker Griffiths

“If you come out and say things in the media then you also have to back it up. I don’t think Brendan would have any qualms about doing that and you just hope that the penny drops with Leigh that he doesn’t waste what could be a really great career.

“He has all the attributes of a natural striker. He has made the most of what he has got but he needs to get to work on the training ground and fully buy into what the manager wants to do.

“Ronny Deila couldn’t have criticised Leigh the way that Brendan has because he was scoring goals and he was the only one scoring goals. It is an entirely different season this year and an entirely different manager.

“The manager is right to try and get the best out of him – for the sake of his own career. Hopefully he will take note.”

Meanwhile, Stuart Armstrong’s progress this season has also been appreciated by Stark.

The former Celtic and Aberdeen midfielder made Armstrong captain of Scotland’s under-21 side and, as the player is expected to be called up to Gordon Strachan’s squad, Stark is delighted to see just how he has flourished this term.

“I always thought that he was a central, box-to-box midfelder and I don’t think it is a great surprise that we have seen the best of him there.

“Stuart was always quiet and keen to learn and although he does not stand out as an obvious choice of captain because he doesn’t have that in-your-face aspect to his personality that maybe Scott Brown does, he has always had the respect of his team-mates and that is the most important thing.

“He was given the armband temporarily by Brendan too for a game where Brown and Mikael Lustig were out and I wouldn’t be too surprised if that was something that we see more of it further down the line.”