ALEX McLeish last night warned Leigh Griffiths there are “no guarantees” he will be able to win back his place in the Scotland squad after the Celtic striker pulled out of the games against Israel and Portugal.

McLeish left Griffiths on the bench in the Nations League match against Albania at Hampden last month – an omission which the player later described as a “kick in the teeth”.

The 28-year-old has now decided not to play in the Nations League game against Israel in Haifa and the friendly match against Portugal at Hampden on Sunday evening.

A statement released by the centre forward, who became a hero to the Tartan Army when he scored two late free-kicks against England in a Russia 2018 qualifier last year, revealed he wanted to focus on his fitness.

Yet, Griffiths has started in the Scottish champions’ last five games - and has scored three goals in his last six matches – and the move has raised fears among fans that he may chose not to represent the national team in future.

McLeish insisted there were no issues with the former Livingston, Dundee, Wolves and Hibernian striker – but did admit that he was gambling with his international career and may not be able to get back in for the games against Albania away and Israel at home next month.

“I had a conversation with him at the weekend,” he said. “He feels he has got to work on his fitness. He pulled himself out. He wants to be honest with himself and about the situation. We are happy that there are no other call-offs. We go forward.”

“There’s not a problem with that. I understand a reaction at a particular time, but he didn’t carry it forward. I said at the time that he replied by scoring three goals in quick succession. That was a good reaction to the whole thing. There is not a problem.

“I had a good conversation with Leigh on Saturday. I said: ‘Okay, there are obviously no guarantees, but if you feel you have got to get yourself fit’. That is down to his mentality. He is determined to do it. Let’s see what happens.”

Asked if he was taking a gamble by choosing not to play, he said: “Yeah, but it is his personal decision. It is up to Leigh to see what happens in the future. There are no guarantees. He knows that. That is how I left it.”

“I’ve said there are no guarantees. We are looking for top performances from the guys that we have in the current squad. Everybody here wants to play for Scotland in these games. If we can get positive results then it just increases the confidence levels and empowers the players.”

Griffiths, who underwent a clean-up operation during the summer, released a statement stressing that he was still keen to be involved with his country in future.

“I feel that I need to focus on my fitness over this international period and get back into the best possible shape,” he said.

"I had a good discussion with the manager to explain my decision. It's not one that I've made lightly. It means a lot to me to play for Scotland and I hope to be part of Alex's plans again in future, if selected.

"My aim is to be back to my best and be available for selection for club and country."

Peter Grant, the Scotland coach, also stressed that Griffiths had not turned his back on his country after Hearts striker Steven Naismith was preferred to him against Albania.

"He's definitely not in the huff," he said. "There's 100% not an issue.He's just being honest. He's had a great conversation with the manager, who he has spoken with at length.

"Leigh has had his critics, but Alex has never been a critic. He knows what he can do and he knows he's an unbelievable finisher."

Asked if he thought Griffiths needed to get fitter, McFadden said: “I would say so. He certainly needs to get fitter. Everybody can see it, you’re watching his game and to me he needs to get fitter.

“He’s a goalscorer and he’s proven that the last few weeks – he has scored goals. It’s a difficult one because as a striker most of the time you’re judged on the goals. But certainly the way Celtic play, I think Brendan’s been quite vocal that he wants more from him.

“That’s certainly got to be the case for us. We want players who are going to be fit and hungry to do well for the team. So I can certainly see where Leigh’s coming from.

“We look and concentrate on the players we’ve got here. It’s a difficult thing. It’s Leigh’s personal decision. It’s not a situation where we’re at a club and we get to deal with him every day.

“He’s not here, we don’t have time to dwell on it, we need to move on and concentrate on the players we have.”

Naismith more than justified McLeish's faith in him by having a hand in the opening goal and netting the second against Albania last month.

He started up front with Johnny Russell of Sporting Kansas City. Meanwhile, Oliver McBurnie, who has scored four goals for Swansea City is another option. He has played against Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico since McLeish took charge.

Scotland coach James McFadden said: “Hopefully others can come in and take advantage. He (Griffiths) wasn’t guaranteed to start anyway. I think it’s a brave decision from Leigh and fair play to him. But I keep saying it, we have to concentrate on who we have and that’s it. We have got a massive game coming up this week."