19th November 2017

Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

A lasting memory of Cunningsburgh’s Parish Cup win this month was the number of former players who turned up to witness the action.

I often wonder why many of those who have been successful in the past can’t be bothered to give support to their successors. It happens with many teams.

But the men in green certainly had the backing of their predecessors a fortnight ago. I’m not exactly sure but I reckon all but one of the 1977 team who featured in the photo in The History of Shetland Football were in attendance.

The overall crowd which turned up at Gilbertson Park for the match, probably the biggest for any local cup final in many years, is evidence that there is still great attraction for this tournament.

As the late Jim Peterson wrote in his book: “It is generally agreed that, since its inception in 1952, this competition has probably aroused more interest, excitement and controversy than all the others put together.”

While there is no doubt that the Parish Cup, from its very beginning, ruled out Lerwick players from taking part, we must remember that Shetland football is very different to what it was 65 years ago.

I stand by my views that the competition would be the better for change. Whereas very few Shetland Football Association players used to take part (I believe there were only two when Southend won it in 1982), the Premier League now encompasses the whole of Shetland.

But that argument can be shelved for another day. For the moment I would offer my congratulations to the winners. Cunningsburgh were the best team on the day and fully deserved their victory.

With the number of players now available, including plenty of younger talent breaking through, I wouldn’t bet against the new champions going on a run.

And on the subject of South Mainland football, it was great to see Ness United push Spurs so hard in Saturday’s Fraser Cup final.

The match in Scalloway was action-packed for the good number of supporters of both sides who turned up to witness it.

Ness are going head to head with Whitedale for this year’s premier league title and a week or two ago I would have backed the side from the west to prevail.

But after Saturday I’m not so sure. It was only inexperience at crucial moments that cost Ness the knockout victory. If they can tighten things up at the back, and instil just a little more organisation and savvy, they are definitely a side going places.

With a squad largely made up of relative youngsters including James and Stuart Farmer, Liam Flaws, Declan Adamson, Kern Duncan, Harry Thomson and others, the future looks bright indeed.

Recent results mean that even if Ness lose to Spurs in the first of their two remaining matches they could still go to Strom in the final game with the chance of forcing a league play-off. Imagine the excitement if that were to happen.

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As far as national football goes, the qualification process for the World Cup begins again next week with the British sides all in action.

Realistically, Scotland must beat both Lithuania away and Malta at home to retain any hopes of making the play-offs.

Not so many years ago that would have seemed a pretty straightforward challenge, but we all know how the Scots now raise and lower their game depending on the quality of the opposition.

Performances such as the one against England in June would surely see them over the line in both matches, but there is far from any guarantee of that happening.

Manager Gordon Strachan’s squad announced this week is much as expected, with most of the leading contenders listed.

Once again several players could be expected to turn out in an international while unable to command a first-team place at their clubs. Grant Hanley, Robert Snodgrass, Ikechi Anya and Steven Fletcher immediately spring to mind.

The one ray of brightness for Strachan is that he has a few exceptional youngsters at his disposal. Andrew Robertson starred in the Liverpool first team at the weekend while there is no limit to Kieran Tierney’s potential.

I would expect Leigh Griffiths to once again lead the line. If for no other reason just in case a free kick is awarded.

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Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott was forced into an apology this week for comments he made about West Indian cricketers.

Boycott, currently a commentator on the BBC’s Test Match Special, has sensibly backtracked from remarks during a question-and answer-session in Birmingham hosted by Sky Sports.

“Sir” Geoffrey, as he is sometimes referred to by his peers, apparently said knighthoods were handed out like “confetti” to West Indies greats, and added that he would be more likely to receive one if he was to “black his face”.

The blunt Yorkshireman had actually added, immediately after the comments, that he loved West Indian cricket and had the utmost respect for the country’s players. But that was not enough and a full apology has now been forthcoming.

Many sports pundits who have riled the politically correct brigade have been sacked for saying something they instantly regret. It happens. Think Ron Atkinson, Andy Gray, Richard Keys, Glenn Hoddle, etc.

A BBC spokesman has confirmed that Boycott, following his acknowledgment, will still be part of its commentary team for the ongoing three-test series. Which is how it should be.

I’d have to conclude though, that if Boycott thinks he has missed out on an honour because he isn’t West Indian he is mistaken. It’s much more likely for the daft way he speaks his mind.

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I confess to having no interest in this weekend’s boxing match (if you can call it that) between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, other than hoping the latter gets the hiding he deserves.

The only reason is that the Irishman is only a slightly more nauseating character than his opponent.

In the glitzy arena that is Las Vegas, the pair will go head to head in a ridiculous contest which for some reason will see them both pocket more than anyone has ever earned in a single boxing contest.

There is no doubting Mayweather’s credentials even though he is now 40 years old. He has been a world champion at various weights for many years and is a proven competitor.

McGregor, on the other hand, a mixed martial artiste (a cage fighter), has never boxed a serious fight in his life.

The trash talking, hateful comments, disgraceful language, homophobia and racial slurs have dominated the build-up, as the pair traded insult after insult.

Some have said that this kind of volatile behaviour has always been part of the world of prize fighting. But I can’t see that it is necessary.

It is my hope that boxing can have a future. But certainly not like this.

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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