One of my least favourite things to do, when writing about Celtic, is talking down Leigh Griffiths.
Yes, he’s at the very least a controversial character. He’s made mistakes, particularly prior to joining Celtic. But while at the club, he’s been both a revelation and a frustration.
To his credit, he’s one of few professional footballers to openly talk about depression [BBC]. That was huge, and without divulging too much about my own life, I get it. It’s incredibly hard to live with, even if you’re a wee guy who writes articles. Being in the national press constantly, being reviewed every week, and living a very public life? Having to battle – and it is a battle – with depression in those circumstances is worthy of our support.
Speaking objectively, Griffiths let the club down last pre-season. He turned up out of shape, and as a professional footballer, you can’t be doing that. Let alone when the chance to make history looked like a realistic prospect for Griff and his teammates. But believe me, nobody will be more disappointed in Leigh than Leigh himself. Self-criticism, difficulty shedding weight and motivation; they’re all symptoms of depression.
So, it’s incredibly heartening to see Griff back at it, and with the right attitude. Yesterday, he shared this on his Instagram page:
This is an encouraging sight for all Celtic supporters
Let’s be honest; we know exactly how good Leigh Griffiths is. And I don’t want to seem inconsistent on this: I know I’ve written off Leigh Griffiths before, talked about him in the context of a move, etc. I’ve argued that his time at Celtic might be up.
But when we say these things, based on objective arguments, they’re not to personally discredit a person. It’s just talking about things from a footballing perspective. Griffiths just hasn’t been first-team quality for much of the last couple of seasons, and there’s context to that.
So, seeing Griff in the gym, especially after the disappointment of missing out on Euro 2020, can only be a good sign. Having featured in the game to get us there, to lose out will have been a bitter blow. That would affect anyone, mental illness or no.
Yet, it seems to have spurred Griffiths on. If you’re being unkind, you’d be able to suggest he has a professional obligation to, y’know, exercise. But there’s a difference between quietly going about your work and saying to the world “I’m here, I’m working hard, I’m going to make the best of this”. The former is expected, the latter is bold.
Whether Griff actually makes the Celtic team next season is anyone’s guess. However, it seems that if Griffiths has anything to do with it, he will be. We know how good he has been, and how good he can be.
Now, he’s taking matters into his own hands, and all power to him for it.