Date: 11th January 2019 at 12:47pm
Written by:

A couple of days ago, Neil Cameron of The Herald and The Evening Times – he is in fact the Head of Sport over at The Herald Group – penned a truly horrendous piece on Leigh Griffiths. It had all the worst ingredients of Scottish media tabloid sabre-rattling.

It was moralistic, preachy, arrogant and ignorant. At one point, he played the old Kayne West defence (I too suffer from depression so this can’t be me having a go at someone who does) but then accused Griffiths of bringing it on himself … and even accused him of lying in his public statement when he said his issues were not gambling related.

All in the same sentence.

“He denied this week he is a gambling addict, insisting his problem is with mental health issues. If this is 100 per cent true, and I suspect it is not, I sympathise. I suffer from depression and know how much it can affect the life of anyone. I wish him well.”

Except that the whole article is redolent of someone who is putting the boot in just because he can. “It may seem like I’m kicking a man when he’s down, please believe me that’s not the case, but the last thing someone in his position needs is more hassle ….” Cameron writes, just as he pulls his foot back to land another blow.

Griffiths might have “played his last game for Celtic.”

He “should not have been seen” out and about whilst on sabbatical.

Leigh “does himself no favours.”

As if the player asked to be splattered all over one tabloid and then dragged through the muck all over again by this eejit.

What Cameron tends to forget – what he wilfully ignores – is that Leigh’s private time is exactly that. Private. It only became “public” when a national newspaper decided to splatter it all over their front page, an act for which I hope he sues them.

I repeat this again; there is even some doubt as to when the pictures in question were taken. Some say October, others more recently. Not that it’s important. If a certain tabloid rag hadn’t indulged in such bin-raking the conversation wouldn’t be getting had.

Cameron and the other curtain-twitchers – for that is what they are, like the worst kind of nosy neighbours who obsesses over what’s going on in their street – ought to practice what they preach and allow the player the private space and dignity they would want themselves. Quite how someone who says he too suffers from depression can think it’s a good idea to publicly eviscerate someone in this manner … well it’s quite disgraceful.

And I’ll tell you why I said that. I said it because I know for a fact that Cameron is in possession of more information than is in the public domain, so he knows exactly how serious this matter is and what the stakes are.

Because he does, this goes far beyond just some moralising and reads an awfully lot like self-promotion at someone else’s expense.

Cameron’s follow up piece to this was an interview with Brendan Rodgers, where Brendan hinted at some frustration with the ongoing Griffiths situation. He made a valid point about Leigh needing to spend this time appropriately. He also said the club is investigating the Newcastle story.

Cameron doubtless believes this vindicates his piece. It doesn’t.

Nor does it vindicate the other muck-rakers who have leapt onto this tale, some of them simply to say that the media has a right to openly stick in its nose wherever it likes. It doesn’t, and Leveson should have taught these people that. The media in the UK is often a disgrace. It is intrusive and voyeuristic. Look at the way two national newspapers treated the London couple who police interviewed over the drones at Gatwick.

This is a profession that, but for a handful in it, long since abrogated any moral standing it once commanded, and it did that when it abandoned any moral purpose it once had. The Griffiths story was entertainment, not news.

Rodgers’ concerns for Leigh are the real kind. He cares about the player both as a footballer and as a human being. Yes, he is concerned by what he’s hearing … but he’s hearing only what has been in the press and he knows better than to simply take their word for it. That’s why the club is looking into the matter independently.

Should that investigation prove that the tabloids got their story straight, it still doesn’t offer them an alibi for having run it in the first place, knowing what they do about Leigh and what he’s been going through. At best they bring to boot an astonishing ignorance about mental health, appearing to believe Griffiths should be sitting at home all day brooding and staring at the walls … nothing could be more detrimental to his wellbeing.

At worst they simply do not care. Cameron got his headline, he got his article. He went for a cheap shot and an easy target, and at a time when there is a lot going on in the game. I’ll leave you to decide why he didn’t focus on one of those bigger issues.

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