22nd May 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Important to cast the net as wide as possible

, by , in Sport

There has been moderate criticism of the inclusion in the Shetland island games football squad, announ­ced last week, of Duncan Bray and Alan Duncan.

The reason is that, although they have turned out for Ness United and Delting respectively this season, both are now based outwith the isles. Bray, especially, has played little at home since scoring the clinching second goal in the final of the 2005 tournament.

For what it’s worth, I believe that manager John Jamieson is correct to pick the best players available to him, notwithstanding where in the world they are currently plying their trade. That includes both Bray and Duncan, who Jamieson ob­viously believes are significantly better than their rivals.

Presumably the dissenters had no problem with athletes Claire Wilson and Michelle Sandison, or archer Morag Hughson, who were based outwith Shetland in 2005 but all claimed gold medals, after being chosen for their home island.

Selecting purely home-based football talent would be a bit like Scotland ruling out Darren Fletcher or Craig Gordon because they are turning out at a higher standard in England. Although the Scottish FA did veer in that direction in the 1960s, when Dave Mackay in particular was unlucky to miss out several times, sensibly it was a policy which did not last.

What if, say, important players like Leighton Flaws, Karl Williamson and James Johnston, who have all represented clubs on mainland Scotland, were to return south. Would you not select them?

Personally I would go even further and pick the likes of Ross Leask, previously of Lerwick Thistle. Maybe he has barely been seen in his old club colours in the past decade, but by all accounts he played a starring role recently to help Heriot Watt win the East of Scotland Cup against Vale of Leven.

Sadly we in Shetland do not possess a bottomless pit of talent. Anyone witnessing the recent match against the Western Isles will know that. Things are not like they were in the 1990s, when possibly up to 30 players could have equal claim to be selected. The net must be cast as wide as possible.

The latest professional football management merry-go-round sees Carlo Ancellotti arriving at Chelsea, Steve Bruce moving to Sunderland and leaving a vacancy at Wigan, Newcastle yet to clarify whether Alan Shearer will remain in charge and the Celtic, Aberdeen and Hibs posts still to be filled in Scotland.

One issue that keeps cropping up, particularly north of the border, is whether the three clubs seeking new managers should lean towards people with some kind of affinity for the teams in question.

It is reported that Celtic might favour Burnley’s Owen Coyle because he was a boyhood fan of the green and whites, likewise Hibs might move for Falkirk boss John Hughes for the reason that he idolised the Leith team as a young­ster, whereas Aberdeen could be interested in Mark McGhee of Motherwell because he starred for the Dons during the glory years of the 1980s.

I’m not sure why this is seen as a sensible move. Perhaps it is a way of pandering to the more blinkered of fans, who might see it as a good thing to have a past favourite in charge.

Analyse the best UK managers in recent years, however, and it is clear that they had little or no connections with the clubs where they have made their mark.

Alex Ferguson had absolutely no alliance with Aberdeen when he took over there, or with Manchester United where he has been so successful over the past 20 years. The same is the case with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Walter Smith at Rangers, or Martin O’Neil or Gordon Strachan at Celtic.

Go further back and the story is much the same. Brian Clough had no connection with Derby County or Nottingham Forest, and even the great Matt Busby and Bill Shankly had no previous with Man Utd or Liverpool where they became so revered.

Of course there have been cases where a player has enjoyed success both on and off the field with the same club. Jock Stein at Celtic is the obvious choice, Don Revie at Leeds United and Bill Nicholson at Spurs were others, and more recently Kenny Dalglish at Liver­pool springs to mind.

By all means consider the past when making an appointment, but surely it is much more important to get the right person. Celtic and Aberdeen would do well to remember what happened when the likes of Lou Macari and Willie Miller were installed at the helm.

There is no doubting the ability of tennis player Andy Murray. He has shown that he can hold his own with the very best, with recent victories over all the top players in the past few months.

Murray was well beaten in the French Open this week, however, by a player seeded 10 places below him, and once again the result begs the question of whether the Scot will ever secure one of the four Grand Slam championships.

All the titles Murray has so far accumulated have come in lesser tournaments played over the best of three sets, but when it comes to the five-set stuff he always seems to be found wanting.

Time is obviously on his side, as Murray is still only 21, but in three of four years that will not be the case. The French clay is also not his best surface.

Perhaps Wimbledon next month will be when he finally fulfils all the promise. Here’s hoping.

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

View other stories by »