I’ve known for a few months now that there was more to Leigh’s absence from our first team squad than some injuries. Phil clued me in on some things shortly after Leigh returned from duty with the Scotland squad. I didn’t want him to be right, but as usual he had it right on the money.
Many in the media must have been aware of the same issues.
I suspect other blogs were as well.
I applaud the restraint of all who had that information and who decided not to publicise it.
I know a lot of people think that it’s our job to publish everything we find out, but it’s not true.
People are entitled to privacy. They are entitled to their own lives and to sort out whatever issues they are having in them. Even our celebrity obsessed press, which prints gossip and innuendo on a daily basis, knows where the line is and when to draw it. I criticise our media remorselessly, but they do have a sense of responsibility in matters such as these, and they have allowed the player the space to deal with those issues in his own way.
Whilst this blog talked about lifestyle changes that Leigh would have to make for the good of his career, we were aware that more than his career was at stake. But his issues are deeper than we knew, and like everyone else we would like to offer him our very best wishes and encouragement as he tries to work through them.
Leigh Griffiths is not alone here. Not only is the Celtic Family right behind him, but he has the backing of a wonderful manager and man in Brendan Rodgers, who understands these issues and how they affect people in the sport.
The sport itself has learned a lot from past tragedies, and for the moment that’s what Leigh’s situation is; a tragedy.
But it will not end as one. It can’t.
We’ve surely come too far for that, we’ve surely made great strides from the days when people in the game felt like they had nowhere to turn to. Nobody in football should feel abandoned anymore, or unable to talk this stuff out with somebody.
The clubs themselves have the tools to help, and what they don’t have in-house they can certainly afford to buy. If Leigh is going somewhere for treatment for his issues then the club will be footing the bill, you can pretty much guarantee it. On top of that, it is normal now for football clubs to utilise the services of motivational coaches, psychologists and other professionals. Things are not the way they once were, where players essentially felt abandoned.
Nor do footballers feel they have to keep these things quiet, or that they need to show a brave face to the world. There is no shame in any of this stuff, largely because a lot of courageous people have gone public before now and made that a little easier.
Those who have bravely confronted their issues in public beforehand – Neil Lennon being an important one – will be there to lend Leigh their very best advice. And this guy has a family too, including his wonderful children.
Hang on tight to them, Leigh. Hang on tight to all of them.
Leigh loves his football, and he will want to get back to it soon. It will not be the main focus for him, but at the back of his mind he’ll be thinking about it. I do believe he will return, just as good as he is now. I believe he will be banging in the goals before this campaign ends.
He needs to take his time with this one though, it’s bigger than any physical injury will ever be, it’s more important for him to allow time to heal. He won’t heal all the way; it doesn’t work like that. He’ll be in a constant struggle … but that’s a battle that can be won.
It is won, every day, by people everywhere.
More than all of that, Leigh has the support of every decent person across football. They have pledged their encouragement from right across the game, fans, players, managers, representatives rom every club in the land.
The fans especially deserve great praise for their compassion; they are Scottish football’s real supporters, they are the people who get it, who care.
But I say every “decent” person, because already social media buzzes with those whose default position is hate; to those people I have but one message.
You speak only for yourselves, from the depths of the lowest gutter at the bottom of the lowest barrel of filth, in the basement of the grubbiest abattoir of depravity. You are not a representative of any club, culture or community. You are an aberration, a freak of nature, too ugly in body and soul to live but which somehow heaves itself out of bed each day.
Leigh is worth more than all of you put together.
Love and respect to you and yours Leigh, and this Family is with you every step of the way.
Return home soon.
Your place will be waiting for you.
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