It’s fair to say Leigh Griffiths had more than his share of run-ins with officialdom last season so it will probably come as no surprise to anyone to learn the Scotland Under-21 striker was in bother yet again with a referee before his second spell with Hibs had barely got underway.
“Sparky” by name, sparky by nature, that’s Griffiths and while Pat Fenlon doesn’t want to remove that touch of “devilment” from the Leith boy’s make-up, the Hibs boss admitted to have more than a touch of sympathy for the youngster following his latest bit of bother.
Griffiths had hardly got across the white line in the Stadion Den Dreef, making his way onto the pitch as a substitute against Leuven in the 1-0 loss on Saturday, before he was greeted with a familiar sight, a yellow card flashed in his face by referee Roel van Bensch,
His crime, not one of those infamous “gestures” which tagged him as one of Scottish football’s bad boys, not even a hint of dissent, but, incredibly, having the wrong colour of tape over his bottle green socks holding his shinguards in place. Griffiths, apparently, had transgressed in breaking one of those petty UEFA regulations which state such tape must be the same colour as the socks. Fenlon simply shook his head in disbelief, saying: “I cannot believe he was booked for some ridiculous UEFA directive.”
There again, it had been that sort of day for Griffiths after the Capital club struck another deal with Wolves which will see the Hibs-daft hitman on loan at Easter Road until January.
It started with an early morning flight to Amsterdam where a waiting car whisked him to Hibs base in the sea-side Dutch town of Vlissingen where he had time enough to drop off his case, re-acquaint himself with his old team-mates and introduce himself to the summer arrivals before being bundled onto the coach for the near two-hour drive to Leuven, probably more famous for its production of Stella Artois than a team which finished 14th in the Jupiler League last season.
His arrival did, though, please those Hibs fans who had made the journey to the town east of the Belgian capital Brussels although they had to wait an hour to see the prodigal son in action. Other than a shot which had the sting taken out of it by Wim Raymaekers’ challenge little was seen of him, Fenlon admitting: “Leigh looked a bit rusty, but his sharpness will improve.”
Being a touch off the pace was understandable given the day Griffiths had endured, the match won by a goal 18 minutes from time was Ebrahima Sawaneh, known as Ibou, slid home Joren Dehond’s cutback.
Hibs did have their moments, Logan Bailly’s hands stung by an Ivan Sproule effort and the Leuven goalkeeper was grateful just to be able to push a vicious David Wotherspoon effort – and even happier to see Eoin Doyle fail to make a clean contact with the rebound.
Hibs: Williams, Clancy, Stephens, Hanlon, Booth, Sproule (Griffiths 60), Maybury (Claros 69), Stevenson (Handling 90), Doyle, Wotherspoon, Caldwell (Cairney 76). Substitutes not used: Antell, O’Hanlon, Kujabi, Stanton.