CELTIC striker Leigh Griffiths has expressed his gratitude for the support he has received from rival supporters in the wake of what he described as “pathetic and vile” online abuse.
Police Scotland are investigating a comment directed towards Griffiths on Twitter on Sunday which expressed a death wish against his four children.
The 25-year-old Scotland international, who regularly engages with other Twitter users, was left shocked and saddened by the post. After receiving a similar comment from another user yesterday, which has also been referred to the police, he announced his withdrawal from the social media network.
Griffiths had earlier spoken of how he had been heartened by the widespread condemnation of the initial abuse communicated to him by fans of other clubs.
“Believe it or not, the fans who have been commenting on it most have been Rangers and Hearts fans,” he said. “Obviously the Celtic fans who follow me on Twitter have been giving me their support. But Rangers, Hearts, Aberdeen and Motherwell fans have all been supportive. I want to say thanks to them. It is nice to see.
“I have banter with opposition fans and I get criticism when I am due it and praise when I am due it. But that is towards me and me only. To bring my kids into it is pathetic and vile. They don’t do anything to hurt anybody.
“I might be hated for 90 minutes when I am on the football pitch, but I am not arrogant. I do everything I can to help people. I have done charity work. Last season I offered to help the wee Hearts fan whose house got broken into. I offered to pay for some of his Christmas stuff.
“So when you see that on Twitter it is not very nice. But the response I have had from not just Celtic fans, but fans from all over Scotland is heartwarming and I just want to say a special thanks to them because it is touching. Regardless of whether they hate me for 90 minutes or not, as a football player I am still a human being. My kids don’t do anything to hurt anybody.”
Griffiths, who has two sons and two daughters all of pre-school age, was also concerned by the effect the comments had on his wider family.
“It’s not just hurting me, it’s hurting the kids’ mums as well,” he added. “They weren’t very happy with the stuff that was getting commented on and even my mum as well. People are writing on their statuses.
“I think because they are sitting behind a computer or a phone, they think that gives them the right to abuse people. If we do it to somebody else we get scrutinised so why shouldn’t they? It is difficult at times. I have said before that Twitter is a good place to interact with fans. You get a bit of banter and it is enjoyable. But when that stuff comes across it is horrible and hurtful.
“I didn’t draw attention to it for publicity. I just want everybody to know it is hurtful and has to be dealt with. People can’t get away with saying stuff like that. It is not just for me, it is anybody. I wouldn’t wish it on any professional footballer or any individual. For somebody to say I hope your four kids die is disgusting. I just want to forget about it and concentrate on my football and let the police deal with it now.”
In a season which has so far been exceptional from a personal perspective, Griffiths scored his 29th goal of the campaign in Sunday’s 2-0 Scottish Cup fifth-round win over East Kilbride at Airdrie.
Victory over the Lowland League side has not diminished the pressure on Celtic manager Ronny Deila, however, after the League Cup semi-final defeat by Ross County at Hampden and the loss to Premiership title rivals Aberdeen at Pittodrie in their previous two games.
“We don’t want to do well just for the manager,” said Griffiths. “It’s for ourselves as well. We went into the East Kilbride game on the back of two defeats and we just wanted to get through the tie, regardless of the scoreline.
“The main thing was making sure that we were in the quarter-final draw and we’ll now be working hard and focused on beating Ross County in the league on Saturday.
“We wanted to win all three domestic trophies this season but everyone knew that was going to be difficult and you have to give Ross County credit for the way they played against us at Hampden.
“But we still have the chance to win two trophies and, when Morton come along in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals, we’ll look to take care of them.
“However, doubles are hard to win as well and everyone is out to try and shoot us down. But if we go about our business in the way that we can, there isn’t a team that can stop us.”
Griffiths has happily carried the burden of scoring goals for Celtic as a lone striker this season but believes he could form a profitable pairing with new signing Colin Kazim-Richards. The Turkish international scored his first goal for the club against East Kilbride as Deila made a rare switch to a 4-4-2 formation.
“I can see a future for that partnership,” added Griffiths. “Colin’s a big, strong lad, he’s physical and he likes to get the ball to feet whereas I’m the opposite – I like to get behind defenders and stretch the game.
“Against East Kilbride we tried to link up as best we could and I hope that’s the start of things to come.
“He’s played for a lot of big clubs and scored wherever he’s been. He’s come to another one now and I’m not ready to give up my jersey.”