26th May 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Sporting Chance – James Johnston

, by , in Sport

Shetland’s footballers are keen to keep their recent good run going in tomorrow’s annual senior inter-county fixture. They warmed up last month with an excellent win over Highland League side Deveronvale where one of those who stood out was midfielder JAMES JOHNSTON, in line to make his 10th appearance against Orkney.

My first taste of action was at . . .
The Gilbert Bain Hospital on 25th November, 1980. I was the last of five and probably a mistake, as my brother and sisters keep reminding me.

I mainly got into football because . . .
Euro 88 was on TV and I fancied myself as a Marco Van Basten goal machine. I took my little red racer out to Seafield every day during that summer and Harry Jamieson must have been scouting out there because I was soon playing “real football” in some tattie field called Fraser Park wearing the Spurs shirt and being “encouraged” by the gaffer.

A few years later I played in a fantastically talented street football team which included Moray Leask, once of Scalloway and Berwick Rangers. Our home fixtures were at Stout’s Court and the opposition was mostly drunks and waifs stumbling out from the old Lerwick Football Club along the south end of Lerwick. I drew inspiration from nutmegging the likes of Gary Nicolson, Paul Regan, Trevor Cole, etc. on many a sunny Saturday afternoon in the early 1990s.

A big influence was . . .
As a youngster Ronnie Calderwood got together a great bunch of guys and moulded a fantastic team spirit among us during our juvenile and junior domination. We were lucky that he also quite enjoyed his football holidays so we were treated to some cracking trips to Holland, Wales and Aberdeen. I’m encouraged to see the support for our current Shetland squads getting away.

Derrick Bradley gave me a senior Shetland shirt at 16 and helped me adapt to playing for managers whose favourite touchline rant was “Cchhrriisstt!” although I only ever played under one.

Latterly Niall Bristow brought a lot of thought and structure to the way Shetland played and it
maybe brought the best out in me. Ferocious team talks in Norwegian from Helge Hjelle
were interesting . . .

As a youngster my sporting heroes were . . .
Paul Gascoigne was a player I loved to watch when I was young – so powerful with fantastic dribbling skills and a way of holding off players under pressure. A totally unpredictable party animal who lived in Rome for years and had an unmissable TV show all to himself – how did he do it? Let’s just say his career finished before the serious athletes took over. I feel former Hibs player Joe Tortolano was always under rated as well …

Currently I most admire . . .
I have followed Ryan Giggs’ career from his debut and I admire his humility and immaculate professionalism. Apart from scoring with Dani Behr and various other glamour models (so to speak) in the party days of the Premiership circa 1996 he has been outstanding as a role model and ambassador for Manchester United and I was so pleased to see him fire the last penalty past Chelsea and surpass Bobby Charlton’s record of appearances in doing so.

Away from football I admire or follow the work of BBC correspondent John Simpson and former South African president Nelson Mandela.

My best achievements have been . . .
Captaining Shetland last year and being lucky enough to lift the trophy. This year is my 10th cap which I have been looking forward to reaching – it was always on my mind around this time of the year even when I was living in Southampton.

Getting my first senior cap and going to the Jersey island games when I was 16, scoring for both junior and senior counties in the same year in 1998, spending a year playing football in Norway and winning promotion. As a gift, Måløy paid for me to travel from Shetland to Oslo to watch the Norwegian cup final.

In my student days we won the league with Edinburgh University and I played for Scotland twice and won player of the tournament at the British University Games although the “British” coaches selected no players from Scotland or Northern Ireland and only one from Wales to travel to Malaysia for the World Games.

I won two league titles and plenty of cups with Spartans in Edinburgh before returning to play for Spurs where a league title for the milkbags before I retire would eclipse all of the above.
Oh and of course the island games triumph in 2005 which we will repeat in 2009.

The best thing about football is . . .
Training, winning, spending time with friends, playing in big games for Shetland with a good crowd behind you and watching talented juniors make their mark in the seniors. Listening to Davy MacDonald say s***e as the goalie’s kick sails over his head again!

And the worst thing is . . .
Nothing.

Abiding memories were . . .
The first time I went on trial at Rosenborg I travelled and lived in a hotel with a Norwegian international under-17 future starlet but on the morning of the first training session he said he was going to fake illness all week because he didn’t want to sign for them.

I stood at the bus stop waiting for the team bus and climbed on with more than a few blank expressions from the players. After all I stood out a mile in my Spurs tracksuit and Fila boots among Adidas branded everything.

At the stadium I sat down in the players’ changing area in the first available seat tucked far away in the corner only to be abused outrageously in Norwegian by a little man wearing glasses. It was Nils Ane Eggen, the eccentric first team coach, and I was sitting in his seat which was totally forbidden!
Luckily I managed to get myself together and was given some Adidas kit and I enjoyed a fantastic week of training including a training match against a first division side in which I scored.

Coming on against Livingston in the Scottish Cup and being immediately nutmegged by David Fernandez, then very soon after trying to do something too elaborate and surrendering possession only for them to score … Ah well!

Being there to watch Hibs score five and lift the CIS Cup in 2007.

Shetland football trips with impressions of past and present team mangers from Messrs Peterson and Hay.

A way of improving football would be . . .
Adopting some parts of the disciplinary code from Rugby Union, namely that only the captain can speak to the referee and that sin bins be used for cynical/professional fouls for which the referee would normally give a yellow card. Why should the following team in their fixture list benefit from a cynical foul committed against your team?

My ambitions are to . . .
Run a marathon, work abroad, retire on my 50th birthday and watch my daughter Cameron grow up as happy as I was.

My hobbies apart from football are . . .
Occasionally acquiring rare football boots.

Musically I like to listen to . . .
Currently the Editors, MGMT, Groove Armada and The Twang are rotating in the car CD player but I like my old classic dance tracks as well.

I like to read . . .
John Simpson and anything about the history of the Middle East. Any short novel is enjoyable and reading with Cameron is great.

And watch . . .
Friends, Sunday Night Project, Match of the Day, Spooks and The F Word I might plan to watch, and the Dimbleby series on Russia and Wild China were brilliant programmes recently. Loads of news and documentaries. I’m a bit addicted to BBC News 24, Al Jezeera Eng and Russia Today but I’m sure it will pass.

The best films I’ve seen are . . .
Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Training Day, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and any Bond film.

My favourite actors/actresses . . .
Robert De Niro and Meg Ryan.

My favourite food and drink is . . .
Indian for takeaway and a table at the Outsider in Edinburgh, looking out at the castle, for four courses and loads of red wine.

The best places I have visited are . . .
Spiggie Beach early on a Sunday morning with Cameron, Washington DC and the New Forest village pubs near Southampton .

If I could live anywhere in the world other than Shetland it would be . . .
Killiecrankie in Perthshire.

My pet hates are . . .
Food poisoning and fillets of anything with bones in.

The living person I most admire is . . .
Nelson Mandela.

Because . . .
Of his personal struggle which became a nation’s struggle against oppression and his willingness to forgive and bring together a divided nation. At 90 years old countries and leaders across the world now look to him for words of guidance and inspiration – amazing!

The five people I would invite to my dream dinner party are . . .
Nelson Mandela, John Simpson, Osama Bin Laden, Eric Cantona and Billy Connolly.

Anything to add . . .
I once was a joiner, say no more.