Leigh Griffiths reveals his other side – as a member of the grammar police

Humorous and respectful to bosses (except Billy Brown) striker reveals the personality behind the headlines
Leigh Griffiths, right, and his old friend and striker partner Garry O’Connor during their successful spell togther at Hibs. Picture: Kenny Smith/SNSLeigh Griffiths, right, and his old friend and striker partner Garry O’Connor during their successful spell togther at Hibs. Picture: Kenny Smith/SNS
Leigh Griffiths, right, and his old friend and striker partner Garry O’Connor during their successful spell togther at Hibs. Picture: Kenny Smith/SNS

It might be all the home schooling he’s been forced to do as a father to five kids, but Leigh Griffiths’ standards have shot way up.

His disgust at what sounds like a minor spelling error by Garry O’Connor is one of several golden moments after the Celtic striker finally consented to the Si Ferry interview treatment. In front of a bare, cream wall – nothing so hackneyed as bookshelves for our Leigh – he firmly trashed a few preconceived ideas we might have had about him. One surprise is that he’s a stickler for spelling.

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Poor Garry O’Connor, who on top of other misadventures is now on the run from the grammar police. His crime? Misspelling to as two. It might not even have been his fault given the advent of predictive spelling. But Griffiths is a hard taskmaster.

“What a guy Gaz is, man,” says Griffiths. “His finishing was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was ridiculous. He talks nonsense. He can’t spell either. He can’t spell for sh*t!

“I remember one summer he wanted to come down to the house. And he spelt to as in two – T-W-O!”

Griffiths proves himself to be a very decent storyteller with a seemingly forensic memory for detail. He has a rich vein of tales and is adept at conjuring up off-the-cuff anecdotes.

No wonder Ferry says at the start of his Open Goal YouTube interview, released online two days ago, that he’s been trying to persuade Griffiths to appear on his podcast for a long time. Lockdown seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

Livewire Griffiths was finally within the same four walls for a length of time. Unlike what seemed to be the case a lot of the time early in his career. The way Griffiths paints it it’s as if he’s forever throwing back the duvet at a “mate’s house” in a mad panic on the morning of a game.

Once, when with Dundee, he only arrived at the ground at 2.15pm. manager Jocky Scott, pictured, put him on the bench. Dundee lost and he got the blame. “I took full responsibility,” says Griffiths.

While the relationship between the old school Scott and the peroxide wunderkind signed from Livingston seemed from the outside to be somewhat stormy, there’s a warmth when Griffiths remembers his time working with his first manager at Dundee. It’s consistent with the tone of the much-loved online parody from the time, the Alternative Leigh Griffiths blog, which depicted Griffiths as in thrall to Scott.

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“He (Jocky) is a funny, funny guy,” reflects the real Griffiths. “I can still remember shouting at me now. What a guy, what a manager. I can’t believe they sacked him when they did.”

On the night Scott was given his jotters, following a 3-0 defeat to Airdrie and with Dundee still leading the First Division, a text dropped from “Big Rab” – Robert Douglas. “Team meeting in the morning, don’t anyone go out”. Griffiths went out. “It was my mate’s 18th!”

Mostly, Griffiths displays a healthy respect for authority. Apart from when Billy Brown had the audacity to join Pat Fenlon’s coaching staff at Hibs and was then less than complimentary about Griffiths’ performance in training one morning.

“Billy says: ‘you were sh*te’,” recalled Griffiths. “Bearing in mind he has just come from Hearts! I didn’t want him at the club! ‘Who are you talking to?’ I grabbed him and threw him to the ground.” The point Griffiths wants to make now is that he didn’t headbutt him, as was reported at the time. “Me and Billy are fine now,” he adds.

He adores Gordon Strachan even though he didn’t always put him in his Scotland team. Before an England game, Strachan looked around the room and then realised there was no point trying to tell them anything they wouldn’t already know about their opponents. “He ended up scrapping the video analysis: ‘you watch them every week, some of you play against them – just go out and play against them!’ Brilliant!”

When asked to name his toughest opponent, Griffiths again surprises. “My mate Coll Donaldson,” he reveals. Now at Ross County, Donaldson – who endured a difficult spell at Dundee United – would not be the first player to spring to mind.

“I hated playing against Darren O’Dea,” adds Griffiths, who also has problems when up against Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna. “He will come up and nip you,” he said.

It’s gratifying to see Griffiths in such good form after what has been another turbulent chapter in his career.

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The current shutdown must be particularly hard for him to cope with given that he’s already endured a shutdown of his own due to mental health troubles.

He managed to get back to the level where he scored a hat-trick in his and Celtic’s last game and then this – more enforced inactivity. But he certainly put in a good shift with Ferry – more than 90 minutes spent portraying another side of Leigh Griffiths.

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