Death. Taxes. ‘Leigh Griffiths faces SFA rap’.
In February 2016, Aston Villa defender Joleon Lescott raised the bar for unconvincing excuses in football. Following his side’s 6-0 defeat against Liverpool, he did what any of us would do in his position and tweeted a picture of his £121,000 Mercedes.
After his relatable tweet inexplicably provoked a backlash, Lescott issued an apology in which he claimed: “the tweet sent out from my account involving a picture of a car was totally accidental. It happened whilst driving and my phone was in my pocket”.
It would take a heart of stone not to empathise with Lescott. I mean, there but for the grace of God, right?
It seemed that Lescott would forever hold the dubious honour of being the man responsible for football’s most embarrassing excuse, but he reckoned without Leigh ‘what’s he done now’ Griffiths.
During Dundee’s 2-0 defeat against St Johnstone at Dens Park, a flare was thrown onto the pitch from the away support. Rather than do what any other 31-year-old would do and, you know, not kick the flare back into the stand, Griffiths kicked the flare back into the stand. Because he’s Leigh Griffiths, and he simply does not learn.
Still, there was a chance to take the heat out of the situation by issuing a quick, genuine and credible apology. ‘Heat of the moment’, ‘deeply embarrassed’, ‘I can’t help it, I’m Leigh Griffiths’, that kind of thing.
So it was that, on Thursday afternoon, Dundee shared a statement in which they addressed a “regrettable incident”.
It read: “Following the opening goal, a smoke generator, amongst other items, was thrown onto the park by the visiting supporters. This pyrotechnic ended up back in the stand as Leigh kicked it to remove it from the field of play”.
Hmmm. I mean, technically they’re right that the pyrotechnic “ended up back in the stand”, but only in the same way that Billy Batts ‘ended up’ in the boot of Henry Hill’s car in Goodfellas.
The statement then quoted Griffiths himself, who said: “It was regrettable that the pyrotechnic ended up back in the stand, as my intention was just to remove it from the pitch. Having just lost a goal, I was eager to get the match restarted as quickly as possible and I would like to apologise for any distress caused by this action”.
We’re often told that ‘a fit and healthy Leigh Griffiths gets you 25 goals a season’, but apparently he managed to launch a flare up in the air and deep into the stand when he meant to just put it out of play while standing a couple of yards from the edge of the pitch. Boy, does that guy need a run of games.
There are those who continue to stand by Griffiths and his talents, however, with some on Twitter suggesting that if the fans are chucking flares onto the pitch they’re hypocritical for complaining when that flare gets sent back where it came from. The assumption there being that Griffiths would have been able to identify the individual who chucked the flare and then pick the perpetrator out with his cultured left foot.
The truth is, when Griffiths kicked that flare into the stand, he had no way of knowing if it would hit a spectator, and who that spectator might have been. A child. A pensioner. A 57-year-old man with 25 shamrock emojis in his Twitter bio who accidentally wandered into Dens Park while tweeting ‘Actually, he didn’t know how old she was when he allegedly sent those messages’.
Griffiths is lucky that he didn’t cause someone serious harm, and Thursday’s ‘apology’ doesn’t even come close to cutting it. No-one’s saying the chants from St Johnstone supporters are something to celebrate, but if you play stupid games you win stupid prizes. Griffiths has played plenty, and his prize is constant baiting from rival fans.
If he’s the player people still claim he is, Griffiths would have scored against St Johnstone, run to their fans and either cupped his ears or put his finger to his lips. That’s how to respond to abuse.
Shutting them up by doing his job on the pitch would have sent out a message that he couldn’t be thrown off his stride by chants from the stands. Instead, the message he sent out on Wednesday night was ‘I’m not mature enough to know where the line is, so fans of every club should spend every minute of every game trying to get a rise out of me. I’ll probably bite’.
This is a player who made his professional debut 15 years ago. He’s been around long enough to know how it works. The ‘daft wee laddie’ excuse has long since ceased to be relevant.
After creating negative headlines during pre-season for a second successive year, Dundee handed him an opportunity to restore his reputation and resurrect his career. For ‘Scotland’s most natural goalscorer’, Leigh Griffiths doesn’t half waste some chances.