AMID the hullabaloo of Shetland Flag Day and the Johnsmas Foy, the cream of the isles’ current crop of footballers are looking forward to taking on top Highland League side Deveronvale tomorrow afternoon.
Manager John Johnson has whittled his squad down to a pool of 20 for the friendly match against the strong visitors, hailing from Banff, who finished third in this year’s Highland League, ending up only six points behind champions Cove Rangers.
The rolling captaincy sees centre-back Merv Jamieson take over the armband from 2007 captain James Johnston as Shetland seek to wrest back the Friendship Trophy which Deveronvale lifted last year with a resounding 4-0 victory.
For the showcase match Delting stopper Merv Jamieson
takes over the “rolling” Shetland captaincy from James Johnston of Spurs.
Johnson told The Shetland Times this week that he was 99 per cent sure of his starting line-up, which it seems safe to assume will include the few remaining members of the 2005 island games-winning side, Leighton Flaws, Merv Jamieson, Karl Williamson and James Johnston, while the prolific young Whalsay forward Ross Irvine will be pushing for a place in the team.
With Bobby Wiseman injured and Craig Dinwoodie also unlikely to be fit for the match, the number one shirt will go to either Celtic’s Paul Grant or young Ness goalkeeper Erik Peterson.
The loss of Delting’s injured wide man Stuart Hay – who could miss the remainder of this campaign – will be a major blow, but Whalsay’s Allistair Johnson, drafted into the squad after impressing the manager with his recent performances, will be vying to fill his boots, as will Whitedale’s Duncan Anderson and Scott Morrison of Thistle. Another new face in the pool is Josie Kay, the Spurs player having struck up an impressive central midfield partnership with Johnston during the Lerwick side’s fine start to the domestic season.
But the manager said he was disappointed with the fact that Shetland Football Association had failed to organise stewards or a match day programme for the game, which could have raised much-needed funds for the remainder of the year.
In February this year, Johnson issued a strongly-worded appeal in this newspaper for help from the business community and after getting a good response – including a sponsorship deal with Brudolff Hotels – in this instance he felt let down by the SFA.
He said: “I’m disappointed at the lack of help from the association with stewarding for the game and the lack of a programme, especially with such a high profile game and opposition. We’ve got big games coming up this year and we need money.”
That grumble aside, Johnson said he was looking forward to tomorrow’s match. “I am delighted for Shetland to get the opportunity to play a team of Deveronvale’s stature and quality and would like to thank them for travelling north to play us. Games of this nature raise the profile and hopefully standard of Shetland football.
“It is also an indication as to the standard we will be required to achieve in our efforts in the Highland League Challenge Cup. No matter what happens on Saturday we will all benefit: players, management and the footballing people of Shetland.”
Deveronvale, meanwhile, are under a new management team of Stuart Glennie and Scott Anderson, the latter once having been on Glasgow Rangers’ books as a player. Although their first pre-season friendly proper is not until the middle of next month, club spokesman Kevin Davidson said their 15-man squad included seven first-teamers, along with a few trialists and youngsters.
Deveronvale spokesman Kevin Davidson: With the Jarl’s Squads
marching to the ground it will be an eye-opener for the team.
The Banff side come with an impressive pedigree, having finished as Highland League champions twice since the turn of the century, while only a 1-0 defeat by Partick Thistle denied them a place in the Scottish Cup quarter finals last year, and Davidson said the club felt their third place finish last season was an underachievement.
He delivered a glowing assessment of the Shetland team’s abilities having watched them on their four-match tour of the Highlands last summer. He feels they have a “very, very good chance” of beating Fort William in their first ever Highland League Challenge Cup tie later this summer, and said the Deveronvale squad were eagerly anticipating the match tomorrow.
“It’s a kick-start for the pre-season,” he said. “With the celebrations in Shetland, the anticipated crowds and the Jarl’s Squads marching to the ground beforehand [it] will be quite an eye-opener for the whole squad, and they’ll want to turn around and put on a very good performance, but they’re up against a very well-drilled squad.”
Davidson added that Deveronvale were very grateful to sponsors Shetland Seafood Auctions and Northwards Ltd for providing sponsorship to enable the club to travel north this weekend.
The fixture is the first in a series of games the county side has planned for this year and should serve as a useful preparation for what is their debut season in the Highland League Cup, which sees them take on Fort William in the first round this August. There is also a visit to Orkney for the centenary inter-county clash and towards the end of the summer Shetland will host the Western Isles.
Shetland from: Craig Dinwoodie (Delting), Paul Grant (Celtic), Erik Peterson (Ness United); Leighton Flaws (Delting), Merv Jamieson (captain, Delting); Richard Arthur (Whalsay), Kevin Teale (Thistle), Ross Moncrieff (Celtic); Karl Williamson, Ian Simpson, Allistair Johnson (all Whalsay), James Johnston, Josie Kay (both Spurs), Ross Jamieson (Delting), Scott Morrison (Thistle), Duncan Anderson (Whitedale); Ross Irvine (Whalsay), Dominic Mann (Celtic), Ross McDougal (Delting) and Paul Molloy (Whitedale).
Deveronvale from: James Blanchard; Bryan Dlugonski, Scott Fraser, Gary McGowan, Paul Munro, John Chalmers, Colin Brook, Francis More, Graeme Rodger, Scott Moore, Ben Chapman, Grant Noble, Neale Allan, Michael Fletcher, Jack Meldrum.
- — Shetland play Deveronvale at Gilbertson Park tomorrow (Saturday 21 June), kick-off 2pm.