Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

Lerwick Spurs’ participation in the Highland Amateur Cup was sadly to prove short-lived, as the Shetland champions lost 3-1 to their Orkney opponents Kirkwall Thorfinn in the first round on Saturday.

Having thrashed another Orcadian club, Kirkwall Accies, in the preliminary round, Spurs must have harboured hopes of advancing further and helping put Shetland football on the wider map.

It was not to be, however, as Thorfinn were to prove the stronger team on the day. And having defender Lewis Kay red-carded for expressing robust views about the refereeing standard was obviously a blow to Spurs’ hopes of progressing.

Former Lerwick Thistle player Robert Adamson, who has managed Thorfinn for a number of years, was also said to have incurred the wrath of the opposition. When the third goal went in he removed his tracksuit top to reveal an old Thistle shirt!

“Once a jag always a jag”, was Adamson’s explanation this week, adding the perhaps spurious claim that the weather was so hot he was forced to disrobe.

Obviously his quirky sense of humour remains, although it is rather doubtful if the Spurs contingent would have seen any funny side.

This latest Highland Amateur Cup venture is the third time a Shetland club has taken part in the competition, with Adamson’s own Thistle entering first in 1996.

On that occasion, the regional first and second rounds were played in Shetland, with Thistle seeing off Whalsay and Ness United before moving into the overall draw comprising 32 teams from across the region.

Further victories were gained over Lairg Rovers, Culloden and favourites Muir of Ord, leading to a semi-final appearance against Dingwall Thistle at Ross County’s Victoria Park.

There it was to end. Despite Adamson making his first appearance in the competition, an understrength Lerwick side lost 1-0.

Nine years later it was Whalsay who participated. Again they came through two regional rounds in Shetland, then impressively defeated Halkirk 2-0 after the cup moved to the open stage.

But Caithness champions Pentland United were just too strong for Whalsay in the fourth round, winning 3-1.

In retrospect Whalsay perhaps did not choose the best year to enter. In 2005 the concentration in local football was very much on the island games, and we all know what happened there.

Personally I believe that club sides in the isles should be looking at annual participation in the Highland Amateur Cup, with the backing of Shetland Football Association of course.

This should obviously not come at the detriment of the local competitions, but should run alongside them.

Regularly playing against the same opposition can become tedious, and any chance to take on teams from other parts of the Highlands and Islands would surely be welcomed.

I can’t believe that any player would prefer competing against the same opponents at least once a month to having a go at someone they are not familiar with.

It is unlikely that if this happened any of the matches would ever take place in Shetland, however – logistically that is just not possible. But with the current NorthLink service being what it is there is nothing to stop teams travelling to Orkney for cup ties,

Qualifying stages are run in Orkney every year, with usually two rounds and three or four teams going through to the third round. Could that not be organised in Shetland? Things need to move on.

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While I’m no fan of footballer Joey Barton, either as a player or for his hypocritical political views, I feel the year-and-a-half ban he was handed down after admitting to betting on matches was excessive in the extreme.

Football, and sport in general, is now awash with betting advertising, with even some of the major competitions being sponsored by gambling companies. The situation is so ridiculous it is almost beyond comment.

There is something inherently rotten about the fact that an organisation under the rule of questionable organisations can discipline its own participants for having a flutter.

It is said that Barton perhaps placed bets on matches involving his own team. If that is so he was just plain silly. But the wagers were so miniscule that there is no way he would have intended to influence the outcome, and even if that was his aim it is extremely doubtful if he would have succeeded.

Barton is certainly not in the same league as Wayne Rooney, who is reported to have chucked away £500,000 during a couple of hours at the roulette tables in Manchester. But I suppose for a multi-millionaire who earns about £60,000 a day that barely accounts to a couple of weeks’ wages.

Casinos may be largely frequented by the rich in society, but the majority of money squandered in gambling takes place in high street – or online – bookies, and is lost by people who can often ill afford it. It is a great pity that sport, which has all but rid itself of tobacco advertising, is now tarnished with this maleficence.

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The performances of the Shetland Amateur Athletics Club members who took part in the Scottish North District Championships in Inverness on Friday and Saturday are deserving of praise.

To return home with 18 gold, 17 silver and 17 bronze medals, along with 61 personal bests is a fantastic achievement when you consider they were gained from a total of 117 individual efforts.

The headlines have not unexpectedly been made by Seumas Mackay and Katie Dinwoodie, who claimed five golds between them and set major records in the process.

What must be especially pleasing is that the honours were spread across five different age groups, at under-13, under-15, under-17, under-20 and senior levels. That shows a consistent high level of ability which can only be a good thing for the future.

It wasn’t just Mackay and Dinwoodie who were multi-winners either. Double golds were also secured by Loni Wiseman and Connor Macdonald while brothers Finn and Shay Regan, Stephanie Mercer, Lucy Holden, Leigh Nicolson, Kieran Fraser, Sean Walterson, Faye Cox and Tom Jamieson all topped the podium once.

With the junior inter-county against Orkney just a fortnight away hopes are surely high in the athletics events. Effort and training over the winter is undoubtedly paying off. A big acknowledgment to the competitors themselves, along with their dedicated coaches of course, without whose efforts little would be possible.

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Shetland said goodbye to two more footballers from yesteryear last month, with the deaths of Andrew Fullerton and Willie Black.

I never knew or played against the former, but by all accounts he was a very able winger with the powerful Scalloway team of the 1960s.

Andrew played in the village side which won three trophies in 1960, the first year of virtual dominance which was to last for well over a decade.

A clean sweep was secured the following year, with Scalloway winning the Madrid Cup  Fraser Cup, Manson Cup, Jamieson Cup, Mackeson Cup and County Shield, an achievement which the club went on to repeat five times in the next 12 years.

Andrew remained a member of the Scalloway squad for the rest of the 60s, and played a few times into the following decade before hanging up his boots.

Willie played for the Lerwick Celtic junior side in the mid-50s. I don’t recall mention of him going on into senior football but he was certainly a passionate supporter in the 60s.

His smiling face leaps out at you in one of the photographs in Jim Peterson’s book The History of Shetland Football when he was one of the triumphant party which returned from Orkney after the famous 9-7 inter-county win.

Willie’s best claim to fame, however, was being the Lerwick Guizer Jarl in 1989. Unfortunately a bug laid him low for the daytime schedule, when ex-jarl Charlie Simpson stepped in, but Willie bounced back in time for the burning and actually made it round all the halls.

I often bumped into Willie and he was always good company, always the same, and usually having a laugh about something or other.

Condolences to the families of both Andrew and Willie.


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