Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

The Shetland football team’s narrow defeat by Highland League opponents Formartine United at the weekend should rank as of the best results by a representative team outwith the isles.

To lose 3-2 to such quality opposition, with half a side unavailable for various reasons, must have given coaches Alan Graham and John Scott Christie food for thought when it came to selecting the final squad for the inter-county match against Orkney a week tomorrow.

Injuries have ruled out defender Robert Smith and midfielder Connor Regan, but captain Leighton Flaws, Joel Bradley, Calvin Leask, Joe Kay, Paul Molloy and Richard Sinclair have all been included in the pool of 17 who will make the trip to Kirkwall and Graham and Christie will have a difficult job in selecting the 11 who will start. It is a good problem to have though.

Shetland will probably face a very different Orkney side to the one which promised much at Gilbertson Park last year but eventually succumbed to a 6-0 defeat.

Under new manager Karl Adamson a young and inexperienced outfit have recorded some promising results themselves against Highland League opposition, and last weekend defeated Caithness on penalties to win the Archer Shield.

A host of new names including Ryan Allan, Wayne Kirkness, Axel Bondoux, Robbie MacVie and Jack Paterson will be relatively unknown to the Shetland managers and players, but several of them could well figure in Adamson’s plans.

Meanwhile Shetland’s hockey contingent will be hoping to finally put an end to a string of defeats which stretches too far back for comfort.

The efforts of the squad in making the semi-finals of the Scottish District Cup earlier this year, where they lost to a team which defeated Orkney in the final, will surely give the players heart for next weekend’s match.

Everyone will be rooting for them to bring the Lady Hamilton Cup back to Shetland after an absence which has been far too long.

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It was sad to hear of the death of Lerwick woman Inga Tait earlier this month.

Inga Tait was one of Shetland's greatest all-round sportswomen. Photo: Keith Morrison
Inga Tait was one of Shetland’s greatest all-round sportswomen. Photo: Keith Morrison

A champion runner in her younger days, she went on to represent Shetland at netball, hockey, table tennis, badminton and darts, and also played a bit of volleyball, football and rugby for good measure.

Latterly she concentrated on darts and then pool and was a member of the inter-county pool team for nearly two decades.

At Inga’s funeral last week the eulogy recalled how she was much in demand as a football player at school because of her running power.

PE teacher Ronnie Gray had told her off and delicately tried to explain how she might get hurt. Her reaction was to play on, but under the pseudonym “David Smith”.

Inga was in the Shetland table tennis team at the 1993 island games at the Isle of Wight, but suffered from the heat and told the organisers she would definitely not be going to Gibraltar the next time round. She reckoned if she could live anywhere other than Shetland in the world it would be Alaska.

She considered her greatest achievements to be playing pool for Scotland and winning a silver medal at the world championships; being ranked in the EUKPF world top eight list in 2001.

Inga reckoned she had won a medal or trophy in some kind of sport every year for a total of 39 years – some achievement.

Asked of her abiding memories of sport she recalled the time 500 kilted Scotsmen on their way to the Euro 96 football tournament cheered her on at the world pool championships and sang Flower of Scotland. But most of all she remembered eating hot pies from a baker’s in Orkney at 2am.

Away from sporting pursuits Inga was noted as an avid reader, which she attributed partly
to her former English teacher Jim Rankin who she said made even Shakespeare appear exciting.

She was immensly proud of her five children – James, Christopher, Shona, Vaila and Sadie – and the mountain of standard grades and highers they accumulated.

Inga had left school without sitting any examinations which was one of the big regrets of her life. From what I learned of her when we spent some time in hospital together, in another era she could easily have been university material.

To her husband Roy, her children and all her close relatives and friends, I would offer my sincere condolences.

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With the Olympics in Brazil looming, no decision has yet been made on whether Russia should be banned from the event.

As our MSP Tavish Scott points out in The Shetland Times this week, the performance of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) is nothing short of a disgrace.

Russia was found guilty of running a state-sponsored drugs programme to help the country’s athletes achieve success. Gold medals were undoubtedly won in events where clean competitors were defeated.

I am not sure I would go as far as former UK decathlon star and double Olympic champion Daley Thompson, who said this week that Russia should be banned from all sport.

But at the Olympics, an historic event which is supposed to embody everything that is good about competition, that country’s athletes should certainly not be taking part.

There is no point in spending any more time poring over this and assessing the situation. Russia has been caught cheating, end of story. They should be kicked out now.

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With Andy Murray having just won his second Wimbledon men’s singles title and his third Grand Slam event in total, there is the usual clamour for him to be knighted.

As this column has argued in the past, there is nothing wrong in recognising the achievements of sportsmen and women, but bestowing honours such as these while they are still competing does little other than embarrass them.

I do not know Murray, but he comes across as a fairly down-to-earch character (incidentally his body language has improved immeasurable with coach Ivan Lendl back on board) and I doubt if he would welcome being referred to as “Sir Andy”.

There is plenty of time to honour competitors once their playing days are over, and plenty of seriously impressive people still still waiting in the wings for a gong.

I believe it was wrong to knight Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy while they were still riding, and likewise Chris Froome who looks set for a third Tour de France title, and equally it would be ill-advised to do so with Murray.


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