Shetland Football Association’s senior outdoor football season is scheduled to begin next Friday with the first round of matches in the G&S Flooring Premier League. SFA press secretary Brydon Robertson previews the forthcoming action.
The premier league will consist of eight teams after Yell were relegated to the Shetland Chiropractic Reserve League and Unst’s application to join the same league was accepted at the association’s annual general meeting.
The Madrid and Manson Cups will be run on a league cup format with two groups and the top two from each progressing to the semi-final knockout stage.
The reserve league will feature nine teams with new additions Yell and Unst and the folding of Thistle B. There will be two cup competitions for reserve sides, both run on a knockout basis.
Next Friday’s premier league matches see Celtic playing host to Delting and Spurs at home to Whitedale.
Celtic have started the run-in to this season well, reaching the final of the Highland Fuels Cup by way of a 3-2 defeat of Delting in the quarter-finals and a 1-0 victory over town rivals Spurs.
There has not been much movement of players in the Celtic squad this year but they continue to feed young players into their team from the Rangers youth set-up. They will be hoping to improve on their fourth place in the premier league and also pick up some of the available silverware this season.
Delting will welcome the return of Stuart Hay and Ross Jamieson this year after their lengthy breaks through injury. The Brae-based team will be determined to clinch the title this season after being pipped at the post by Whalsay last year. Delting also have Danny Peterson returning after a season with Yell and will be hoping to win their opening game against Celtic and avenge their narrow defeat in the Highland Fuels quarter-final.
Spurs have brought in a few players to strengthen their chances of clinching top spot after their third place finish last season. Players coming in are Scott Morrison and Jose Antonio Gonzales and the rumoured return of former Thistle and Shetland goalkeeper Bobby Wiseman. Spurs will hope to be in contention for some of the association’s silverware again and improve on their Madrid Cup final appearance in 2009.
Whitedale featured well in last season’s cup competitions, winning the Manson Cup and the County Shield, but will be keen to improve on their league form and finish higher up the table than their sixth place spot last year. The Whitedale squad sees the addition of ex-Delting midfielder Brian Duncan but the rest will be pretty much the same as last year, though they have lost Marcus Pitt to a knee injury.
The next set of league fixtures on Monday 19th April will see the other four teams in the league take to the field, Thistle taking on Scalloway and Whalsay hosting Ness United.
Thistle have lost Scott Morrison to town rivals Spurs, though their defence is bolstered by the return of Richard Bulter. That apart, the squad will be as last season which saw them finish strongly to claim fifth spot after a poor start. Thistle may struggle with a smaller squad this season and with the club unable to field a reserve team it will be interesting to see what they can conjure up to keep the Jags in contention for the title and cups.
Scalloway have seen a big influx of personnel over the close season with the arrival of former Unst players Darren Thomson, Liam MacGregor and Derrick Duncan along with ex-Whalsay strikers Laurence Pearson and Michael Williamson.
The return of the experienced trio of Grant Gilfillan, Ross Duncan and Robbie Nicolson will see the village side hope to make a better start to the league season than last year which saw them finish ninth.
Pre-season Highland Fuels Cup winners Whalsay have a new manager in former player Robert Geddes, who will be determined to hold on to the league title they won last season. They will have to do without the services of Pearson and Michael Williamson who have both left the club. They will, however, be bolstered by the return of Allister Johnson after a long period out through injury.
Ness United will be looking to improve on their last trip to Whalsay which saw them lose 3-1 in the quarter-final of the Highland Fuels Cup. This year sees the return of former junior players Alexander White and Declan Adamson as well as the return of Ian Bray, and they have also signed up Barry Martin. Ness will be hoping to build on their form from last year which saw them finish in seventh position in the league and reach the Madrid Cup semi-finals.
The Shetland Chiropractic Reserve League gets under way with the knock-out cup preliminary round game between Whalsay and Delting reserves at Harbison Park on Wednesday 14th April. The league kicks off on 21st April with the following games: Whalsay v Whitedale, Celtic v Scalloway (Clickimin South) and Spurs v Ness Utd (Gilbertson). All kick-offs 18:30.
A spokesman said the association would like to wish all the teams the best of luck for the forthcoming season and thank the association sponsor Brudolff Hotels for the continued support and all the volunteers and referees for their efforts in making sure the competitions run throughout the season.