Monday, 7 April 2014

Shape up or ship out
Having defended Leigh Griffiths over his ‘Hearts are going bust’ chanting in an Edinburgh pub, it’s only natural to respond to the latest tabloid frenzy over the alleged racist chanting which Griffiths is said to have instigated. My knee jerk reaction to the story was to assume it was a typical tabloid distraction from the latest Sevco disaster. Yesterday’s Ramsden’s Cup final came replete with the usual distasteful singing as well as scenes of violent disorder in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh which only ended when police ‘kettled’ a large group of Sevco fans. As Mr McCoist’s dismal cup record reached a new low it seemed as if the gutter press were indulging in the usual smokescreen to mask what is now surely a crisis at Ibrox.

Video footing purporting to show Griffiths leading a pub full of Hibs fans in a chant of ‘Rudi Skacel is a fucking refugee’ was posted on the Daily Record’s webpage and although a good lawyer could argue that it is inconclusive in terms of Griffiths’ actual words, it’s clearly not one of Leigh’s more sensible moments. I have noticed on social media a tendency from some to try and excuse the chant in terms of what exactly constitutes ‘racism’ and why there was no mention of the distasteful chanting at the Ramsden’s Cup Final. Such arguments shouldn’t distract us from the fact that Leigh Griffiths appears to be a young man who needs to learn what representing Celtic FC entails.  Every player who pulls on those Hooped shirts is an ambassador for Celtic and should bear that in mind. In a world where almost everyone has access to a phone which can film events in seconds and have it posted on YouTube in minutes, he really must think about the consequences of his actions.
A good way to judge the behaviour of any individual action is to reverse the situation and consider how you would react if the abuse was aimed at you or yours. You may recall the less enlightened among the Rangers support chanting ‘Lubo’s a Gypsy’ at Lubomir Moravcik some years back. It was distasteful and sadly typical of some in our society. Griffiths alleged behaviour in that Edinburgh pub was similar in its content and has to be viewed as similarly dumb. He seems to be a young man who enjoys being one of the lads but his modicum of ‘fame’ and his position as a professional footballer playing for Celtic means he needs to do some growing up and fast.

Neil Lennon and perhaps even Peter Lawwell will be having words with Leigh Griffiths. No doubt his Manager may adopt the manner of an older man who has made some mistakes himself in his time but Lennon should make Griffiths’ well aware of his duties as a Celtic player. As a young man Neil was no angel on or off the field but I think it’s safe to say Lennon has learned, particularly about the distorting power of the media. Most of you reading this will be familiar with the tactics and attitudes used by the worst elements of the tabloid media and their attempts to drag Celtic’s name through the gutter. Griffiths needs to be told in no uncertain manner that he should give these people no excuse whatsoever to write about anything other than his football. It may be that the SFA, who so ludicrously charged him over the silly but essentially harmless ‘Hearts are going bust’ jibe will look into this new and more serious allegation and Griffiths may have to face the music.  

It is tempting to think of what the likes of Jock Stein would say to a young player like Leigh Griffiths.  Griffiths is a talented footballer as his record clearly shows but Big Jock would no doubt have took him to one side and told him in earthy miner’s language, ‘Cut it out son or you’ll be feeling my boot on your arse.’ We live in different times now so perhaps Neil Lennon will be reminding Griffiths if he wants to have a future at Celtic and fulfil his potential at Celtic he really must think before he acts. It really is a case of shape up or ship out.

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