Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

It was heartening to hear from Shetland Recreational Trust that no decisions have yet been taken regarding restructuring work at the Clickimin Leisure Centre.

Bowlers had been up in arms after reports that two of the four rinks in the Clickimin bowls hall would be lost as a result of turning half the space into a gymnasium for the new Anderson High School.

The situation was not helped when SIC chief executive Mark Boden stated that the council was planning to invest £3 million on building a training centre at the bowls hall.

Apparently that figure is for a variety of restructuring work around Clickimin, and includes nearly £2 million for a new indoor centre south of the main building, entirely separate from the bowls hall itself.

According to sources the new centre will be used for AHS pupils during the day time, but available for clubs and other organisations in the evening, much the same as the games hall at the current high school. The only change at the bowls hall may be the loss of the Bowlers Bar, which may be turned into a classroom for lectures as part of the new PE study courses.

Not surprisingly, bowlers have been uncertain about what the future holds, and an online petition was organised in an attempt to keep their hall intact.

Hopefully that will not be necessary and common sense will prevail. As has been previously stressed in this column, decimating a very popular sport in the isles, which caters for young and old alike, would not set a very good example.

Some of this uncertainty could have been avoided by better communication from those concerned. That means getting the people who know what’s going on to speak about it, openly, to the media.

Neither a senior council official nor a hired public relations agency will have the necessary knowledge to give acceptable answers to vital questions which the public look for.

Can a lesson really be learned from this? That is probably too much to hope for, but continually pointing out the pitfalls may be of some help.

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A football referee can often be one of the most thankless positions in sport, especially at the highest level.

Mistakes are highlighted again and again on television, with slow-motion replays often proving that it is virtually impossible for officials to get some decisions correct.

At local level there is a constant shortage of referees, and to hear that one of Shetland’s longest-serving, Robbie Summers, has given up does not help the situation.

He will have his critics, with his serious style not to everyone’s liking, but for someone to have carried on as he has for roughly four decades is surely worth a mention.

Having first picked up a whistle when he was barely out of under-18 football as a player, and regularly officiated ever since apart from a few gaps, he was apparently intending to step down at the end of this season. However, having to put up with abuse in a recent game proved too much and he has taken his leave now.

Summers has refereed many important matches in his time, including junior inter-counties, the senior inter-county of 1989, a Shetland v Faroe match before the latter took on international status, and countless local Shetland Football Association cup finals and Parish Cup finals.

Perhaps he will have another rethink. After all he first decided to give up nine years ago, also after taking personal abuse, and then made a comeback. But if not best wishes on “another” retirement Robbie.

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A week or so ago I would have applauded Everton footballer John Stones for the dignified stance he appeared to be taking while cash-laden Chelsea table bid after bid for the talented defender.

But now it appears that, having seen Everton turn down all the offers, Stones has tabled a transfer request to his club. Manager Roberto Martinez insists he is going nowhere but the future is obviously in doubt.

Stones is clearly a very good player, having already been chosen for the English squad, but this once again emphases how heads can be turned by relentless pursuits by richer organisations.

Scott Allan was a case in point in the Scottish game. Having left Dundee United as a youngster to try his luck prematurely in England, he failed to make the grade and eventually landed up back at Hibs.

Then following an excellent season last year in the Scottish Championship, where he was by all accounts his side’s best player, Allan was targeted by fellow championship side Rangers. He was reputed to be a “lifelong fan” of the Ibrox club, a phrase routinely parroted by gullible players when they can’t think of anything more interesting to say.

Hibs sensibly refused to sell a prized asset to their rivals, but then in stepped Celtic and Allan swopped his blue dream for a green one, even though he has little more than a cat’s chance in hell of
regularly making it into the first team at Parkhead.

Stones would be wise to keep his head down, spend a couple more years at Everton under one of the best managers in the game, nail down a regular international slot, and only then consider his options.

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The England cricket team’s 3-2 Ashes victory over Australia basically comprised a bizarre series of results.

From being given little hope before the action began, with the visitors strong favourites following their whitewash success a couple of years ago, England upset the odds in style.

Probably the most outstanding result was in the opening match at Cardiff, where on a decent pitch the English attack completely out-bowled their much-vaunted opponents.

Extraordinary matches were to follow at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, where vintage spells by James Anderson, Steven Finn, Chris Broad and Ben Stokes led to comprehensive home victories, while that was sandwiched between Australian successes at Lords and the Oval.

The final two wins away from London highlighted that the Aussie batsmen struggle to bat on a difficult pitch with typical English conditions. Nothing new there.

But the victories in the capital strangely, and embarrassingly, showed that England find it more difficult to perform on a wicket which offers little for the bowler.

The statistics from the series offer interesting reading. In the batting and bowling averages Australia have three of the top four in both. They made three centuries to England’s two while on wickets taken the next three best bowlers behind Broad are all Australian.

Plenty of talk has centred on the English opening batsmen, and who will be Alistair Cook’s likely partner on this winter’s tours, the characterless, crowdless test series against Pakistan in the UAE followed by the more serious business in South Africa.

Most pundits believe that Adam Lyth’s time is up, and his poor record when facing Australia, notwithstanding an earlier century against New Zealand, should lead to him being dropped.

Personally I would give Lyth one more chance. Since the retirement of Andrew Strauss a succession of openers have been tried and discarded, some of whom have not done too badly.

It was different when Marcus Trescothick stopped playing for England, as they had a ready-made replacement in Cook chomping at the bit.

Now there is no obvious alternative to Lyth – for instance Mooen Ali and Alex Hales are front-foot players who may well struggle against the pace of Dale Steyn in South Africa – and with spin being the major component of the Pakistan attack why not let Lyth continue?


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