Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

Whether it is too late to look again at the idea of naming the new Anderson High School pupils’ accommodation after former Janet Courtney Hostel warden George McGhee, the people’s favourite, is debatable.

It was interesting to read the prospective councillors’ comments on the issue in last week’s paper, with only slightly more being in favour of reconsidering the naming than those who viewed it as too late to change.

Our own Scord Views columnist Mark Burgess, who may or may not have retained his Shetland Central seat by the time you read this, stated he had backed the SIC decision not to name a building after a serving council employee. But he saw no harm in revisiting the subject.

As an addition, however, Burgess touched on a sporting context: what to do about the new indoor centre at Clickimin, rather awkwardly referred to as the “60-40 facility”. He suggested the possibility of seeking a more appropriate name for it.

I could give a couple of suggestions, starting with the John Nicolson Centre. If it hadn’t been for the efforts of the former SIC director of leisure and recreation and a few others it is unlikely we would have had the sporting infrastructure in the isles we have today.

But there would be one annoying hurdle to overcome for that to happen. Happily Mr Nicolson remains with us and it is unclear if Shetland Recreational Trust would follow the ridiculous stance of the council and refuse to name anything after someone still alive.

Thankfully this does not exist in other more accommodating parts of the UK. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had the Roger Bannister running track, the Redgrave Pinsent rowing lake, the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, the Paula Radcliffe athletics stadium or the Sir Alex Ferguson stand at Old Trafford, along with many other football-related examples. It was revealed this week that part of the Liverpool ground would be renamed after club legend Kenny Dalglish.

But if the SRT was to insist on the name supplier being deceased, what about honouring the late Jim Peterson? It is likely that the new indoor arena will be used for football more than any other sport, and that after all was his greatest passion. What sounds best – the Jim Peterson Centre or the 60-40 facility? Surely there is only one answer to that one.

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Sadly the Shetland Ladies hockey team fell at the last hurdle, losing once again to Orkney in the final of the Scottish District Cup in Glasgow at the weekend.

The girls should not in any way feel downhearted. Getting to the final was in itself a fantastic achievement, considering the difficulties they have compared to most of the other teams in the tournament.

Employing the services of a sports psychologist may have been a novel idea and made the headlines in last week’s paper, but that is not what this dedicated bunch of players need in order to raise their game further against Orkney.

Psychology may have a minimal effect when two sides are incredibly close and just one tiny injection from outside can make the difference. I’m not sure that is the case here.

What Shetland hockey requires is a proper playing surface in Lerwick, so that pupils from primary school age upwards can learn the skills involved in the modern game.

Another of this week’s councillor hopefuls, Beatrice Wishart who is standing in the Lerwick South ward, suggested in her manifesto that clear decisions need to be made over what becomes of the former Anderson High School site at the Knab. She suggested that part of the site, likely the large parking area above the school, could be turned into a new hockey pitch. The same view was expressed a couple of months ago by retired teacher George Burgess in a letter to this newspaper.

It is difficult to believe there are not some ideas already circulating in council quarters on what happens to the AHS site. It cannot all be bulldozed to the ground as the oldest Anderson Educational Institute part of the school, along with the Janet Courtney and Bruce Hostels, are listed buildings and must remain.

A campsite could surely be incorporated somewhere, as the perfectly good one at Clickimin was after all obliterated to make way for the new school. And there are many other possibilities which could be explored.

But a hockey pitch should surely be high on the list, and I see no reason why the sports hall and changing facilities which already exist could not be left in place and rejuvenated to run alongside it.

If Wishart should be elected today, along with Burgess for Shetland Central, hopefully they will not go the way of previous councillors and forget the sensible words they used when appealing to the populace.

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Boxing and snooker are sports which have lost much of the popularity enjoyed two or three decades ago, but on the basis of the weekend’s events they could both deservely be on the way back.

Anthony Joshua and Mark Selby became world champions in the ring and at the table following exciting victories on Saturday and Sunday evenings, and both were highly impressive in the way they went about their business.

Boxing has been blighted by controversy in recent years, and hardly helped by the behaviour of some of the competitors or the distasteful operations of those who run the competition at the highest level.

Snooker on the other hand basically just became downright boring, with few or any of the fantastic characters who used to ply their trade in the game.

What made the victory by Joshua over Wladimir Kkitschko all the better, and added to the satisfaction of watching him succeed, was the total absence of the controversy and macho posturing deployed by so many others in his sport.

There is absolutely no way you can compare Joshua’s performance with the appalling behaviour of David Haye and Derek Chisora a few years ago, and the pumped-up nonsense again employed by Haye in his recent fight against Tony Bellew.

Joshua is a fine ambassador for the so-called noble art, and the words expressed by both he and Klitschko just minutes after the battle were memorable.

Selby’s victory over John Higgins on Sunday was very similar to the previous evening’s entertainment, if in an entirely different environment.

It was again marked by the mutual respect shown by the winner and loser, with Higgins even finding time to turn the clock back and crack a joke in the middle of a highly competitive frame.

It’s good to report that things are at last looking positive again on both the baize and the canvas.


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