25th May 2017

Talking sport … by Jim Tait

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It was a glitzy night at Clickimin on Friday evening as Shetland’s top talent once again assembled for the annual sports awards bash.

Strongman Dhanni Moar and volleyball player Edward Oldbury picked up the main individual honours, while Janice Johnston was justly honoured for a sterling period of service to different sports, among them hockey and netball.

The Shetland netballers and Spurs under-15 footballers were named the respective team and young team of the year and a number of volunteers and coaches were recognised for their substantial efforts over the years.

Shetland Times editor Adam Civico had to stand in as MC for Tavish Scott, who has been an ever-present at the awards since they began, and by all accounts our man did a good job. I’m told he even managed to avoid the customary bear hug from Moar, which was maybe just as well.

And speaking of glitzy occasions, the shortlist (16 this year) has been announced for the BBC’s own back-slapping night with the Sports Personality of the Year awards.

Many of the nominees are as expected, and it would be a shock of cataclysmic proportions if tennis player Andy Murray did not walk away with the top honour for the third time in four years.

To my mind Murray’s only serious rival should have been cyclist Chris Froome, who picked up his third Tour de France title in the summer, but for reasons known only to the selectors themselves Froome is not even in the running.

Not surprisingly the golden Olympic feats of distance runner Mo Farah, cyclist couple Laura Trott and Jason Kenny, triathlete Alistair Brownlee, boxer Nicola Adams, swimmer Adam Peaty, gymnast Max Whitlock and showjumper Nick Skelton have placed them in the frame.

Another hopeful made in Rio is captain of the victorious GB women’s hockey team Kate Richardson-Walsh. But why she was chosen and not goalkeeper Maddie Hinch, the real star of the team, is baffling.

Gareth Bale and Jamie Vardy are named as the token footballers, with neither standing a chance of success, while golfer Danny Willett is on the list following his US Masters success.

Three Paralympians are shortlisted – Sophie Christiansen, Sarah Storey and Kadeema Cox. Maybe this has to do with the BBC’s desperation to have more women in the running, but frankly I think they would do better to have a separate category so that Paralympians would be given sensible credit in their own right.

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Attending two football matches on the mainland over the past week and a half brought mixed emotions.

The first was West Bromwich Albion v Burnley in the English Premiership, a marvellous game which resulted in a 4-0 victory for the home side.

The three Scottish players in the West Brom team all scored in the first half – Matt Phillips, James Morrison and a rare goal from Darren Fletcher.

I was impressed by just everything at the Hawthorns ground, a nice compact stadium with an excellent club shop and within easy reach of Birmingham city centre.

The Scottish League Cup final at Hampden six days later was, in comparison, a poor match from both an Aberdeen fan and a neutral’s point of view. When the Dons needed all their players to do well and also probably Celtic to be under par to get a result, they appeared completely overawed by the occasion and simply were never in it.

Celtic captain Scott Brown certainly had the last laugh over an opposition crowd who booed him every time he touched the ball. He was in majestic form with no-one in the Aberdeen side coming anywhere near him. Remind me now. Whatever happened to that “higher league” player Joey Barton?

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Sandwiched between the Hawthorns and Hampden was a visit to Kilmarnock for the Scottish rugby team’s match against Georgia, the third in the autumn series.

It was billed as a tricky tie for the Scots, with Georgia having recorded recent wins over Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, but despite a poor start they did more than enough for a comfortable victory.

The best thing about the Scottish team right now is its attacking flair. I have previously mentioned the strength in depth at centre and back row, but when Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Tommy Seymour get the ball the spectators are on the edge of their seats. Hopefully that will still be the case when the Six Nations Championship begins in February.

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The downside of being away was missing the tribute evening for Jim Peterson at Islesburgh Community Centre on Saturday evening.

Over 150 former team mates, family and friends attended the event, which included speeches as well as many photos and memorabilia from Jim’s involvement with Lerwick Spurs over the years.

Fittingly Jim’s younger brother John and his wife Alexis were present, and a letter was read out from his sister Alice who lives in Canada.

Special guests included former Måløy player Oyvind Reed, who travelled from Norway, and former Kilmarnock player and SFA official Ross Mathie, who knew Jim well from his time spent coaching in Shetland in the 1970s.

My own best memory of Mathie was when he coached our school class on the old pitch at Bellevue one time. Perhaps getting fed up with the lack of effort from several class members who had absolutely no interest in football at all, he asked a boy to cross the ball over to him in the box. It seemed much too high, but Mathie leapt about four feet off the ground and bulleted a header into the top corner. Pretty spectacular.

Much has been said about Jim and the service he gave to sport in the isles, and nothing needs repeating here. Except to say that his beloved club gave him the kind of evening he would surely have been proud of.

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In the wake of the revelations about historic sexual abuse at English football clubs, thankfully former darts player Eric Bristow has seen fit to apologise for ridiculous remarks he made earlier this week.

Bristow, not the first ex-sportsman to fall foul of Twitter, initially posted that he believed the victims of the abuse were not proper men, and that darts players were tough guys while footballers were wimps.

While any suggestion that throwing darts at a board for a living somehow equates to a harder image than playing football is almost laughable, the words not surprisingly caused offence to many.

Bristow was immediately dropped by Sky Sports following his comments, which was probably jumping the gun somewhat, especially as he has now made some attempt to justify them.

The point he had tried to make, he says, was that abusers got away with their crimes for so long, and if just one child came forward quicker or one abuser thought twice about the likelihood of being confronted then it would be worth it.

Bristow later described himself as a “bull in a China shop” and appreciated that his wording was wrong. Maybe he would be advised to cancel his Twitter account now.

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Finally a mention of the English cricket team, currently losing 2-0 with just two of the five tests in India remaining.

While any hope of winning the series has now gone, the two recent defeats after the unlucky draw in the first test have been difficult to fathom.

It has been well documented that England have never managed to find an opening partner for Alistair Cook since the retiral of Andrew Strauss, but there are also glaring doubts over another two of the top six batting places.

The merits of discarding Kevin Pietersen remain debatable but the dropping of Ian Bell was a massive mistake. Bell is clearly a better player than all who have tried to fill his shoes, and the sooner he returns the better.

AboutJim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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