Punishment often outweighs the crime

THE PAST couple of weeks have seen the deaths of two of the most accomplished sportsmen of their generation in Orkney and Shetland, two men who faced each other for their respective counties at both football and badminton.

Last week a fitting tribute was paid to Tommy “Tiny” Jamieson, a man I had the privilege of speaking to last year when compiling one of the series of A Sporting Chance features. Typical of many of his contemporaries he was modesty personified, preferring to praise the talents of his team mates rather than dwell on his own ability.

He played badminton for the senior inter-county on 14 occasions, between 1958 and 1972, only missing one match.

He also played three times for the senior Shetland football team against Orkney, in 1956, 1958 and 1960, scoring one of the goals in 1958. All the games were lost, however, and scoring for the old enemy on each occasion was Russell Groundwater, who went on to complete 17 appearances in Milne Cup matches, registering a total of 14 goals.

Groundwater was undoubtedly the scourge of Shetland during the 1950s and 1960s. Many of his appearances were at inside left in the old 2-3-5 formation, but he was also a terrific centre forward. An obituary in this week’s Orcadian describes his real strength as leading the line . . . “a deadly penalty box predator, hunting down crosses from wingers, through balls or ricochets off hapless defenders”.

After his athleticism had receded Groundwater became a very adept snooker player, and also retained an interest in football through taking up refereeing and his lifelong following of Aberdeen FC.

LAST week’s decision by Shetland Junior Football Association to ban Spurs coach Harry Jamieson for a year has, not surprisingly, proved a big talking point locally.

According to Spurs vice-chairman Jim Peterson the club has decided not to appeal against the ban. That is probably the sensible approach as appeals of this nature are rarely successful and often lead to greater punishments. In this case Jamieson escaped, if that is the right word, with a third of the maximum penalty the as­sociation could have imposed.

This particular incident, however, has once again highlighted the fact that, where football discipline is concerned, the punishment often outweighs the crime.

Jamieson was alleged to have told referee Archie Constable after, of all things, a disputed throw-in near the end of an under-12 match, that he would “flatten his nose”.

As this column has said many times, emotions run high, particularly where managers and coaches feel decisions have wrongly gone against their sides. They say things in the heat of the moment, many of them very silly, which they usually regret after the dust has settled.

I have no idea whether Jamieson feels any remorse over his behaviour in this case, which brings to mind the phrase “handbags at two paces”. Imagining the two parties in question being involved in any kind of altercation is enough to induce a smile.

This seems like a catalogue of unfortunate stages, most of which could have been handled better.

Firstly, Jamieson should have accepted his red card and not threatened the referee.

Secondly, Constable may have been wiser to have toned down his report a little. Many of today’s officials appear to have forgotten what it is like to be on the “other side”.

Thirdly, Jamieson should have attended the meeting of the disciplinary committee.

By failing to do so he forfeited the chance to put his side of the story, or any mitigating circumstances involved.

Fourthly, the association should, as Peterson suggested, have been prepared to comment publicly on the issue. A brief statement that the disciplinary committee felt it acted quickly and fairly on the matter would have sufficed; the tight- lipped approach does no one any credit.

There have been many incidents of equal or even greater severity than this in the history of Shetland football, but grudges were rarely held.

Those of a certain vintage may recall the time when an aggrieved former Whitedale manager locked the referee in his changing room at the end of the match, the poor man only escaping when a passer-by heard his cries through an open window.

Others tell of the time a referee, feeling he had been subjected to undue abuse throughout the match, marched into one dressing room and challenged any player to step outside for a punch up.

Apparently there were no takers.

There was also an incident in southern football circles when a well-known player, taking umbrage after a penalty decision went against him during the game, actually sat on the referee after the final whistle, refusing to let him up until he agreed to visit an optician.

Those examples may not exactly mirror what happened in the case of Jamieson v Constable, but a higher degree of common sense could have helped. The imposition of a year’s ban on someone who has dedicated so many years to working voluntarily with young-sters does seem harsh.

THIS weekend’s Peerie Willie Johnson Guitar Festival has reminded me of a story Aly Bain told a couple of years ago when I was writing an obituary for the great man himself.

It was during one of the various trips to the USA back in the 1970s by the inimitable trio of Aly, Willie and Tammy Anderson that the somewhat bizarre event took place.

Aly recalled that the accom­modation they were staying in was probably some kind of school hostel or other, and right next door was a “soccer” pitch.

Being extremely fond of the game (on the occasions I was sent to interview him it was difficult to get on to the subject of music) Willie suggested to the others that they get outside and have a “kickaboot”.

Aly remembered the scene vividly. He was in goal, Willie was out wide and Dr Tom was stationed in the penalty box.

Willie, who cut a dashing figure with his famous shock of wiry hair, national health specs and perhaps less familiar long shorts, fired in cross after cross but all to no avail.

“C’mon Anderson! Get dee ****** head to it! Move desel man!” the exasperated winger roared. Aly said he had never seen anything like it in his life.

I READ this week that a Celtic supporter has written to the Irish Consul General in Scotland, complaining about a song by Rangers fans during the visitors’ 4-2 win at Parkhead last month.

The subject was the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, in which approximately one million people died, and the words of the chorus, sung to the tune of Sloop John B, ran: “The famine’s over, why don’t you go home?”

Forgive me if I have missed something here, but for somebody connected with a club whose fans regularly chant the words “Go home ya huns” to kick up a fuss seems just a teensy bit hypocritical.

And before the bonkers brigade start writing in, this is not an attack on Glasgow Celtic Football Club, neither is it a slight on their rivals south of the Clyde. It is simply an attempt once again to point out the futility of bigotry in Scottish football and a plea for those involved to move into the 21st century.

Perhaps the best approach could be the “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” one adopted by Aberdeen fans. “We’re only sheepshagging b******s” they used to sing, when doubts were expressed over sexual preference during matches against the Old Firm.


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