Christmas. The season of goodwill. ‘Tis the season to be jolly.
Unfortunately, ‘tis also the season where you always hear a story about how a family’s Christmas has been ruined as a result of some lowlife breaking into their house and stealing money, possessions and Christmas presents.
That was what happened to Edinburgh resident and Hearts season ticket holder Michael Wright last Tuesday morning, as he and his family woke up to find that their house had been broken into, their car gone and the money he had saved to buy his son, Shane, Christmas presents stolen.
Wright said “It’s completely devastating what they have done; we were planning on dropping Shane off at school and doing his Christmas shopping. We were going to buy computer games for his PlayStation”
If there is a positive side to an incident like this is that it tends to bring out the charitable side of people and Wright started receiving messages of support and offers of help over Facebook as his family and friends rallied round in order to try and salvage their Christmas.
Wright was also overwhelmed to find that complete strangers were also sending him messages offering help. However, one message in particular completely blew Wright away. It was a message from someone, who Wright had never met, but at the same time was very familiar to him.
That person was Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths, who offered to buy him the PlayStation games he was going to buy his son.
Wright wasn’t just surprised by Griffiths’ generosity because it meant that a well-known footballer had made him a kind offer. It was also because, prior to his message, as a Hearts fan, he would’ve regarded Griffiths as almost the devil incarnate.
In Edinburgh, there are two major football clubs in the city, Hibernian, and Heart of Midlothian, both of whom got relegated into the Scottish Championship at the end of last season. In the Championship they were joined by Rangers, meaning that this season there’s the weird situation where three of Scotland’s biggest teams are all in the division below the Scottish Premier League.
The rivalry between the Edinburgh clubs is every bit as fierce as the rivalry between the Old Firm teams of Celtic and Rangers, but it’s nowhere near as famous because neither club is as well-supported as the Old Firm clubs and doesn’t have the same level of nastiness surrounding it.
Leigh Griffiths is a Hibs fan, and certainly isn’t shy about showing it, both on and off the pitch. Griffiths spent the early part of his career at Scottish clubs Livingston and Dundee, before English side Wolves signed him. Griffiths was sent out on loan to Hibs for two seasons, where he started to become noticed, and not always for the right reasons.
Griffiths was banned three times in as many months for gesturing at supporters, including the supporters of his own team. He once stormed into a McDonalds and started screaming abuse at the staff because they’d put a gherkin on his burger when he’d asked for one without. A few hours after that, he told an Asian to ‘f*** off back to your own country’ on Twitter. He may have head-butted his former manager at Hibs, Pat Fenlon.
But it’s his relationship with Hearts that made Michael Wright so surprised that Griffiths would offer to help a Hearts fan out. Not only has he been a bane to Hearts fans with his performances for Hibs on the pitch, especially in the Edinburgh derby, he’s also become a hate figure for Hearts fans for both his love for Hibs and his antipathy towards them. Quite simply he loves to hate Hearts fans and they love to hate him back.
Griffiths hasn’t so much fanned the flames of the Hearts-Hibs rivalry, as taken a flamethrower to it. A couple of years ago, he threw a soft drink over a 14-year-old Hearts fan who had taunted him over Hearts’ 5-1 win against Hibs in the Scottish Cup final.
Over the last few years Hearts have been in dire financial trouble, and spent last season in administration as they slid out of the Scottish Premier League. Just before Hearts’ relegation was confirmed, a video of emerged of Griffiths, who’d subsequently moved to Celtic, leading a pub full of Hibs fans in a chant of “Hearts are going bust”.
A couple of days later another video emerged of Griffiths leading Hibs fans in a chant calling the Czech former Hearts player and fan favourite Rudi Skacel a ‘f***ing refugee’.
So Wright was genuinely surprised, not to mention touched, that Griffiths had offered to help him out. He said "We were so gutted to have been burgled and have all that cash and my car stolen, but to then get the message from Leigh was just amazing.
I never thought anyone could be so kind and it really is a thoughtful thing for him to do.
I’m a big Hearts fan and have always hated him when he was on the football pitch, but my view of him has really changed now.
“He usually hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons but we have to give him credit. As a family we all really appreciate what he has done, even though I turned him down.”
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending in that most of Shane’s Christmas presents, as well as those for the rest of the family, were locked away and were not stolen, and Wright’s family helped to replace the stolen money, so he didn’t need Griffiths help in the end.
It’s also nice to remember that no matter what opinion we form of a footballer from afar, whether we love them or hate them, they are just regular people who just happen to have an irregular job, and can be capable of extraordinary acts of kindness, just like anyone else.
Merry Christmas everyone!