WE covered what Leigh Griffiths had to say yesterday about his joy at being back playing football, after his competitive return against Sarajevo last Wednesday night – see HERE. Leigh went out ion his way to thank friends, family, colleagues, his former manager at Celtic Brendan Rodgers and the Celtic support for the backing that they have given him throughout this difficult period in his life which forced him to step away from the game he loves to get himself better.
Anyone with a hint if decency about them would admire this man for what he has achieved in tackling his mental health issues. For so many young men with these problems things can go in entirely the other direction. At the end of last year a friend of my son’s – a really lovely lad incidentally, funny, kind, he had a lovely personality, took his own life. Funerals are inevitably sad but one in these circumstances is truly awful.
So while a young man, a father of young children, was suffering from mental health issues, it was disgraceful that tens of thousands of Rangers supporters, an d indeed supporters of Hearts, would chant a song about him not playing football anymore – despite the damage that such chanting could cause to a family.
Well for them, who had a particularly bad day yesterday thanks to the Judgment from the English Court in favour of Mike Ashley, they now face the prospect of a fired up Leigh Griffiths, the most talented natural goalscorer in Scottish football, ramming their chants down their collective throats this season.
Yesterday Leigh spoke about the impact that these chants from Rangers supporters has had on his family, as reported this morning in Daily Record.
“My son watches videos on YouTube and he heard Rangers fans singing I wouldn’t be playing football any more. I went up to see him one day and he asked me ‘dad – are you going to be back playing football?’ I said – ‘of course I will. Why?’,” Griffiths replied.
“He’s like ‘I was watching YouTube and I came across a video where people were singing that you won’t be playing football any more.’ So I told his mum just to keep him off it as he’s going to do himself damage watching stuff like that.
“My kids are a massive motivation because football isn’t a long career. I could break my leg tomorrow and be finished, with another 40-50 years to live and a family to provide for. That’s a big influence on my life – I need to get as much out of the game as I can for them so I can give them a better life.
“My kids weren’t at the game last week – even though it’s the school holidays, it’s still difficult for them to get to the night games but they were watching at home. But he watched the game last Wednesday and was probably more delighted than anybody to see me back on the pitch.
“It’ll be interesting to hear what they sing when I play against Rangers. It’s rivalry and people sing about opposing players; I’m just glad to have had minutes under my belt and, the more that happens, the less they’ll sing about me.
“They can sing about me if they want. If they do that then they’re leaving someone else in our team alone so that doesn’t bother me.
“Would it make it sweeter to score against them this season? My record against them isn’t bad, to be fair, especially at Ibrox.
“I also came off social media for a while. For my part and the club’s part. They wanted me to stay off and to try and not look at the negative stuff.
“Social media, as you well know, has kind of taken over now. It’s taken over a lot of people’s lives. If you want to find something out, you go on social media because it will be out there quicker.
“There was a lot of negative stuff and bad things said about me that were so untrue it’s unbelievable,” Griffiths said. “But, regardless if I’m off social media, my girlfriend is still on it, family members and friends are still on it. They will still pick up on it and will say to me ‘have you seen this?’
“So I’m going to see it. But I try not to focus too much on what’s been said about me. It’s no just bad stuff. It’s ridiculous.
“The worst thing I’ve read was that I was a massive drug addict and in a certain amount of debt. I actually started laughing. I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t just that it was because my mum was reading it as well. She knows I would never get into drugs or be in debt.
“It was more hurtful for her because she was seeing it rather than me. I can take it. I’ve had stick all my life. It doesn’t bother me. But my mum is reading that online and is then being asked questions so it starts to put doubt in her mind. That was probably the worst.
“You still get some negative people who start vicious rumours about this and that and why I’ve been off but I try and look at the positive side.
“And it’s been great the amount of people who came up to me in the street, in the supermarket or wherever I’ve been to say ‘look, I’m delighted you are back so let’s try and kick on’.
“The more focused I am on the training pitch the more focused I’ll be on the football pitch.”