Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths says sorry for throwing tape at Kilmarnock fan

If Leigh Griffiths ever thinks about adding to his tattoo collection, the Celtic striker might consider one expression worthy of imprinting permanently on his body is the age-old maxim: act in haste, repent at leisure.

A Kilmarnock supporter complains after Leigh Griffiths threw some sock tape into the crowd at Rugby Park. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

The chatter around the Celtic striker these past two weeks ought to have been concentrated solely on his doomsayer-slaying comeback. Yet it hasn’t been, because he chucked a bit of tape at an ageing Kilmarnock fan giving him stick a week past Wednesday.

It claimed the 29-year-old more publicity than the goal he scored that night, or the finisher’s finish this midweek – as his manager described his half-volley effort in the 3-0 thumping of St Johnstone on Wednesday – that took his tally to three goals in four outings since the season resumed following the winter break.

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It is a period, it should not be forgotten, that began with theories that Celtic’s £3.5 million acquisition of striker Patryk Klimala could be the beginning of the end for the Scotland international at the club following a year lost to personal issues and injury problems.

Griffiths, a more sensitive and perceptive soul than his reputation would suggest, is more annoyed with himself than anyone else over the fact that that split second he threw sock tape has overshadowed his best spell professionally for a year and a half; not least because he has developed a promising frontline synergy with Odsonne Edouard.

To his credit, Griffiths recognises that not only what he did at Rugby Park was wrong – regardless of the provocation – but that an expression of regret was owed to the Kilmarnock supporter involved.

“I think it got blown out of proportion. I was getting a bit of abuse and I should not have thrown the tape,” he said. “It was stupid of me. It’s water under the bridge now and with performances like my one at St Johnstone, I try to keep my head up and look forward.

“Any player that gets stick, it’s hard to try to block it out, so to speak. Especially as it was so close to the bench and, with the tape in my hand, it was just a quick reaction. But I want to apologise to the guy. It wasn’t nice and I wouldn’t have liked that done to me, so I want to apologise to him and draw a line under it.”

Griffiths isn’t getting carried away because goals have returned to his game, or that he seems to be proving a good foil for Edouard. As was demonstrated by his reaction to the question of whether, during his lost 2019, he feared he would never be able to enjoy a moment to rival his brilliant free-kick double against England in June 2017.

“That’s the level I am trying to aspire to. It’s probably one of my best all-round performances to date, but I can’t keep living off that,” he said. “People keep talking about the two England goals and the 40-goal season, but I have to try to keep putting forward my name. That’s me got 110 goals for Celtic now and I just want to keep adding.

“I’m feeling good. The more minutes I get on the pitch, the fitter I am going to become. I thought myself and Odsonne linked up really well in the first half against St Johnstone and it’s a joy to play alongside him. It’s brilliant. He’s got such good movement. He goes long, he comes short. We try to play off each other and I think everyone could see for the first goal how well we can link up. Long may it continue.

“I would say I’m about 75/80 per cent at the moment. I’ve still got a bit to go and can still get better. But as long as I’m playing games and working hard in training, that’ll come.”

Griffiths doesn’t take for granted that a Scotland call for the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final on 26 March will naturally follow. That is “too far away” for him to become hung up on it, he said. “I am just concentrating on being picked again for Celtic against Hamilton on Sunday. Listen, it’ll be a nice bonus if I am in the [Scotland] squad and I get a chance to play again, but there’s still another couple of months to go. As long as I’m performing on the pitch and doing well for Celtic, hopefully I’ll be in contention. But that’s not up to me, that’s up to the manager of Scotland and what he wants to do.”

Griffiths doesn’t deny that he would welcome chatting to Steve Clarke about how he is viewing the Celtic striker’s renaissance. For his part, Clarke has said ringing round potential squad members to catch up with them is not how he operates. “He [Steve Clarke] has still not picked up the phone, but I think he was at the Kilmarnock game last week, so, hopefully, I’ve done enough to impress him. But if not, I’ll keep working hard and doing what I can do for Celtic.

“It’s down to me how hard I keep working off the field and in training to make sure I’m fit enough for games and available for selection.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind hearing his thoughts, but he’s got a lot of other players to think about, not just me. Naisy [Steven Naismith] is back fit, [Oli] McBurnie is playing well in the English Premier League, so there’s a lot of good strikers vying for that one position.

“I can only do my job for Celtic and we’ll see what happens come March. If I am scoring goals and playing well for Celtic and helping the team, it is only going to be a good thing.”

After all he has been through, Griffiths deserves good things to happen to him.