27th September 2016
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Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

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The decision of Shetland county managers John Scott Christie and Alan Graham to resign was a big shock this week in local football circles.

The pair, along with representatives of Shetland Football Association (SFA), have remained tight-lipped when interviewed following their decision. So the rumour mill is in full flow.

To lose Christie and Graham is obviously a blow. As is the loss of their assistants Craig Dinwoodie and Kevin Main, although the latter has apparently agreed to stay on until after the next match.

If player power played a part in their decision to step down, as many people believe, then that is a real pity. Managers will have different ideas and coaching methods – some will concentrate more on fitness training while others like to do more work with the ball – but they all deserve at least to be given a proper chance.

The Shetland team is due to face St Duffus in a North Caledonian League knockout competition a week tomorrow, and with the management team having departed the situation is a shambles.

This is not the first time that county managers have been unseated due to player-pressure, of course. It has happened on at least two occasions during the past 15 years.

It would probably be fair to say that Shetland football is not in the greatest health it has ever enjoyed. But there was some evidence that things had moved on from the crisis point of December last year when the SFA was struggling to continue due to unfulfilled vacancies.

At least at that time the Shetland management was in place, and eventually a new committee was established, with the experienced Magnus Flaws as president. The appointment of a dedicated press officer has been a great improvement while the refereeing shortage has also been eased somewhat.

But recently there have been small issues which suggest that the association is not functioning as well as it should be. Firstly there was no Fraser Cup to present when Spurs defeated Whalsay in the final a fortnight ago.

And when the same club clinched the premier league last Friday the absence of the Association Cup, and an SFA representative to hand it over, made for an anti-climax to what should have been a memorable evening for Spurs.

The financial difficulties involved with taking part in competitions outwith Shetland, along with the added pressure of the managers having to organise travel and accommodation for the team, may also have played a part in Christie and Graham’s decision.

Perhaps the people responsible for their departure should now come forward with some ideas of their own on where to go from here. If they can’t do that then they should have knuckled down, worked hard and done their best for whoever was willing enough to take on what can often be a difficult and thankless job.

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It was good to see a promising turnout for Shetland Rugby Club’s open day on Saturday, which was definitely helped by one of the most glorious days of weather this summer.

Once again a men’s rugby team will be competing in the BT Caledonia leagues over the coming winter, and this season they will be joined by a women’s team taking part in regular competition on the mainland for the first time.

That needs serious commitment, however, and ideally much larger groups of players to choose from than what is currently available.

Introducing the game at a grassroots level is obviously the best way forward, but there is also no reason why players cannot take up rugby at an older age if they wish. Provided they are willing to learn the basics, particularly how to tackle properly and avoid injury, then I am sure fit and able individuals would be welcomed by the club.

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The tribute to the late Jim Peterson a fortnight ago referred to the time he was honoured at a This is Your Life style event in the Sound Hall.

Unfortunately neither the red book he received that evening, nor the video made of
the occasion, can be found among his possessions.

If anyone knows the whereabouts of either they are asked to get in touch with Jim’s brother John on (01224) 821313.

Meanwhile Øyvind Reed, on behalf of the friends Jim made in Måløy through the Spurs connection, has sent his own tribute.

He writes: “Whenever Jim’s name comes up it always brings a smile to our faces and stories going back to 1978 and onwards will follow.

“Jim was always the first person to step off Robert [Jamieson’s] bus when Lerwick Spurs Football Club arrived in Måløy, and he was always the first smile we saw when stepping of the boat docking in Lerwick.

“Jim was loved by the younger players for caring, for asking about them and their families. He was equally loved by the senior players for sharing great stories, taking part in the banter and watching all the games with great passion.

“Jim was even more loved by those who had the chance to work with him and plan the many great visits between Lerwick and Måløy.

“His dedication to his club and his ability to build life-long relationships will forever be remembered.

“Jim has taken his final breath, but he will always be a big part of Måløy and the stories will always be close to heart. Jim and his smile will never be forgotten.

“From all your friends in Måløy – you will be deeply missed. Rest in peace Jim Peterson.”

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It is encouraging to see that some football referees this season are beginning to punish all the pushing and pulling which goes on prior to corner kicks, particularly at the highest level.

For years I have had no idea why this behaviour was tolerated, far less been able to understand former players and pundits on television who have continually pleaded that it was “all part and parcel of the game”.

It certainly shouldn’t be. If someone grabs hold of an opponent in the middle of the park it is a clear foul and a free kick is awarded, but when it happens in the penalty box the officials pay no attention.

What needs to happen now is consistency from all referees on this issue. It may result in numerous penalty kicks and yellow or red cards for a while, but once players get wise to the situation things should settle down.

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On the subject of referees, Scottish whistler Craig Thomson has made the news over the past couple of weeks for rather unusual reasons – his spat with BT Sport summariser Chris Sutton.

It started when Sutton labelled Thomson a “bottler” for failing to send off Rangers midfielder Harry Forrester in a recent match.

Thomson was said to be so annoyed by Sutton’s comment that he started the second half of Saturday’s game between St Johnstone and Celtic, which was also being covered by BT Sport, over a minute early. The teams were on the field when the television company was still in the middle of an advert.

Maybe Thomson should be given the benefit of the doubt – his watch may just have been a little fast – but it does seem rather coincidental.

While Sutton may not be everyone’s cup of tea, what you normally get from him is an honest opinion, far removed from the boring interjections of some of his colleagues. The more of that the better.

AboutJim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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