HIBS striker Leigh Griffiths has insisted his arrest for alleged shoplifting was “something over nothing”.
Police have confirmed that Griffiths, 22, was arrested and charged in connection with an alleged shoplifting incident at a Tesco in Corstorphine on Saturday, reportedly involving four Lucozade bottles.
But the Scotland international took to Twitter, admitting he had been questioned in the back office of the store, but saying he had been allowed to leave after a review of CCTV footage.
Despite the controversy, the player started up front for Hibs in their SPL clash with Aberdeen at Pittodrie yesterday.
Mike Reilly, chairman of the Hibs Supporters Club, insisted Griffiths – the second top SPL striker with 15 goals – was “unfairly targeted” by rival supporters and the shoplifting allegations would prove unfounded.
He said: “I don’t believe that he’s been shoplifting and I can only see this as some kind of misunderstanding. We’ll just have to wait and see what comes out of it. Sometimes it’s easier for police is to charge someone and then let the prosecution office deal with it. Hopefully, it’s not true and he can concentrate on his football.”
And Mr Reilly added: “I’m very surprised by the level of abuse he takes. Everyone seems to jump on him and I think Leigh’s unfairly targeted by supporters. For example, in the game against Aberdeen, they were giving him a lot of stick and booing him.
“I don’t see why folk can’t leave it alone. He gets booed every time he touches the ball and I don’t know if it’s anything to do with his previous connections with Livingston and Dundee but some groups of fans should have a long look at themselves. They should give the player a break.”
Griffiths doesn’t always “help himself”, said Mr Reilly, but he argued that it is difficult for a 22-year-old to cope with media attention he was receiving.
The Hibs star, who earned his first Scotland call-up last November, has rarely been out of the headlines since the New Year. He become embroiled in a race storm after telling Twitter user Zak Iqbal to go “back to your own country” in response to a tweet. Griffiths later apologised amid public condemnation from Wolves who said they were “extremely angry and disappointed” by his actions.
Independent MSP Margo MacDonald said Griffiths had become the new Derek Riordan in terms of unfair media attention. She said: “Leigh Griffiths has been picked out as a figure of derision and fun by people. They have lampooned him. He’s a bit daft but they have been wicked in doing that. As soon as Derek [Riordan] walked out the door of Hibs – where he was unfairly characterised because everything he did was exaggerated – there was a ready-made replacement in Leigh.”
On the shoplifting charges, Ms MacDonald said: “I can’t honestly see the point of going through all the expense of a trial for a couple of bottles of Lucozade.”
Wolves declined to comment on the allegations but a spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “A 22-year-old was arrested and charged in connection with an alleged shoplifting incident in Edinburgh on January 26. He will appear at court at a later date”.
A Hibs spokesman said: “The club is aware of an alleged incident that took place on Saturday afternoon involving the place. This is now a police matter.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “As this is now a police matter, we have no comment to make.”