Hockey victory a reward for dedication

Shetland’s junior inter-county squad were on course to retain the Stuart Cup in Kirkwall, with a comfortable points margin, as we went to press yesterday.

Victories in the athletics, swimming and netball were not unexpected, given the success of recent years in those three disciplines, and are a continuing example of Shetland reaping the benefits of the charitable trust’s investment in our sporting infrastructure.

The biggest turnaround, however, was the hockey team’s 3-0 win over Orkney, a tremendous achievement which is a worthy testament to the hard work put in in the last few years by a very dedicated group of hard-working coaches.

The only negative result came in the football match, but by all accounts the Shetland team were very unlucky, dominating the first half and then being hit by a sucker punch when Orkney scored from a rare attack after the break and managed to hold out until the end.

The current football squad are obviously a talented bunch of players, with several of them already beginning to make their mark at senior level.

The experiment adopted by the junior association locally, however, that of management teams maintaining control of the same group of players as they move through the ranks, has little merit.

It is much better for coaches to continue at the same age group level, at least for a few years, giving youngsters the chance to experience contrasting people in charge as they grow older, bigger and stronger.

Different people will see, and be able to nurture, different qualities in a player. Some may be rated by one coach but not by another, and vice versa. This is not a criticism of those currently in charge, who are no doubt very committed to the cause and do a fine job, simply a plea for a more common-sense approach.

The situation is akin to the old days at small rural primary schools with one teacher in charge of up to seven different classes. Woe betide a pupil who did not see eye to eye with whoever was in charge – they could be stuck with them for the duration.

Retired Sandness school teacher Jim Peterson is undoubtedly a man of great distinction. Footballer, badminton player, football manager, badge collector, tracksuit wearer, author, radio presenter. Bon viveur might even be an apt description.

One thing he has never been, however, is a supporter of Celtic, neither the Glasgow nor the Lerwick version. Basically any mention of the green and whites is enough to make his blood curdle.

So how was it then, that strategically placed in the photograph of former Lerwick Celtic players in last week’s paper was none other than Jim, and also his draper buddy Wibby Leask.

Jim has apparently come in for some severe grilling over this. How on earth had he and Wibby, a fellow Lerwick Spurs diehard, managed to infiltrate the ranks of Charlie Moar’s “bhoys”?

“I’ve gotten a lot of stick,” he said this week. “And I’d like it to be known that I have never had any connection with Celtic, any kind of Celtic, in any shape or form!”

However, Jim then went on to add that he’s also never been one to turn down a social gathering, particularly one when some liquid refreshment is involved.

After this column a fortnight ago doubted the wisdom of appointing football managers on the criteria that they have a previous affinity with the club, a clear message appears to be coming through, particularly in Scotland.

Celtic, Aberdeen, Hibs and Falkirk have chosen Tony Mowbray, Mark McGhee, John Hughes and Eddie May respectively, all former players, which leaves Motherwell to fill the remaining hot seat in the Scottish Premier League. Gary McAllister should fit the bill adequately then.

The World Twenty20 cricket competition has now reached the semi-final stage, with South Africa due to take on Pakistan last night and Sri Lanka doing battle with West Indies this evening.

Not surprisingly, England failed to make it beyond the second “super eight” group stage, the only shock being that having displayed incredible inconsistency they actually managed to get that far.

Losing to minnows Holland in the opening match of the initial group of three teams, then turning over Pakistan to reach the second stage should have been the fillip the English required. But not so. The roller-coaster ride continued. Next up they were thumped by the South Africans, then they knocked out tournament favourites India to get themselves back into contention, only to blow it against the West Indies after the batsmen got bogged down and failed to score a single boundary in over 50 balls.

I would dearly love to see the West Indies triumph in this competition, for the main reason that they play the game fairly, sportingly, are exciting to watch and display no arrogance. But sadly those qualities may not be enough to see off Sri Lanka, Pakistan, or particularly, South Africa.

You have to feel for tennis player Andy Murray, with the weight of expectation being loaded on his young shoulders.

Having won last week’s pre-Wimbledon tournament at Queens, he has now been installed as third favourite for the main event, despite never having previously triumphed in a competition over the best of five sets.

Henman Hill has now been renamed Murray Mount, and he will have to contend with hundreds of public schoolgirls squealing at every decent shot he plays.

Murray has experienced the fickleness of the English media, where he was described not so long ago as being “too aggressive, too surly, too focused, too hairy, utterly charmless” and possessing a “tartan chippiness”. Then last week he goes and dons some new tennis kit, including a cable-knit jumper, crisp tailored shorts and polo shirt and he’s suddenly more popular.

On top of that he has his mother monitoring his progress at courtside (far too many parents are involved in sport nowadays, but that’s perhaps an issue for another day).

But to cap it all, Murray will now have to endure an appalling song written for him and performed outside Wimbledon by Rock Salt & Nails, a band late of this parish.

Lead singer Paul Johnston, an effervescent character who achieved much during his time in the isles, even becoming Shetland’s “millennium officer” no less, was on radio the other day speaking about how the band came up with Volley Highway. It was apparently written by “one of the guys at the record company” and contains the immortal words “sing Caledonia wild frontier”.

I don’t know what Murray’s musical tastes are, but if he’s not entirely tone deaf he may well consider a first round exit!


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