By NEIL RIDDELL
SHETLAND Football Association president Magnus Flaws this week denied that there is a growing rift between himself and the senior county team manager John Johnson.
The relationship between the pair is “strained”, according to a reliable source, following comments Johnson made to this newspaper three weeks ago, in which he criticised the association for failing to provide a match day programme for last month’s friendly match against Deveronvale.
At an association committee meeting last Thursday, Flaws made it clear he expected the manager not to make any more potentially divisive remarks through the media and that any dirty linen should be washed in private in future.
It is understood that Johnson was previously unhappy with the lack of logistical support provided by the association for last summer’s four-match tour of the Highlands.
Flaws told The Shetland Times this week that although he was “not amused” that Johnson’s criticism of the lack of a programme had appeared in the press and that the problem had simply stemmed from a lack of communication, he was confident it had now been sorted out.
“We’re all volunteers and it’s a matter of time and effort,” he said. “It [the programme] wasn’t done but it’s not the end of the world.
“As far as I’m concerned the rumours [of a rift] are unfounded and if some folk want to spread stories that’s up to them, but the committee meeting sorted out what we sorted out and that was the end of it.”
Johnson’s predecessor, island games-winning supremo Niall Bristow, resigned in 2006 and one of the factors cited for his departure was a lack of support from the association on the organisational side.
Flaws said that when Bristow was in charge of the team, he used to do “a’ thing” in terms of organisation and that Johnson operated differently, but he had no problem with that as long as both parties knew where they stood.
He also pointed to the level of financial support put in place to support the team, including discounted fares to help the players with the expense of travelling to and from the mainland and the Brudolff Hotels sponsorship deal, which will provide accommodation for the squad when they travel to play Fort William next month and for the Western Isles players when they visit Shetland for a friendly, now scheduled for 29th August.
Johnson said this week that he did not want to make any comment but was looking forward to a busy upcoming period for the team, which starts with the senior inter-county clash with Orkney on Saturday, 26th July. The squad for that match is expected to be announced next week.
It is likely that Delting forward Stuart Hay, a key player for Shetland, will miss the remainder of the current campaign, which rules him out of the Fort William match. The first round Highland League Challenge Cup tie is Shetland’s first ever competitive fixture on the UK mainland.
If they progress there will be another knockout fixture on 23rd August as well as the Western Isles game.
Flaws said fixtures in the local calendar would have to be shuffled around to accommodate the extra games but the weather had been kind this year and he was confident all games would be played before the end of the season.