20th October 2018
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Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

Shetland’s competitors could have a short trip to the 2023 NatWest Island Games, after it was confirmed this week that Orkney is most likely to be the host.

The decision has to be ratified at the annual general meeting of the International Island Games Association (IIGA) in July. But with the IIGA’s executive committee having backed the proposal and no other bidders in contention, the Orcadians have all but got the nod.

The schedule is set to feature 12 of the 15 sports chosen when Shetland successfully staged the games in 2005 – archery, athletics, badminton, clay shooting, football, golf, gymnastics, bowling, cycling, sailing, squash and swimming.

Missing will be windsurfing, table tennis and volleyball, while the Orkney hosts have decided to include triathlon as one of its 13 sports.

Anyone who remembers the excitement of 13 years ago will testify to the feel-good factor which hosting the games brings to the home island. Only perhaps the first Tall Ships visit of 1999 can compare to the buzz around the place – and the crowds which assembled to support the local competitors.

That backing can mean the difference between winning and losing. I have no doubt that several of the medals gained in 2005 were in part due to the enthusiastic support received.

Orkney has traditionally trailed behind Shetland in island games history. But in runner Anna Tait, who claimed golds in the 1,500 and 5,000 metres at Gotland last year, our oldest rivals have an athlete who could be at her peak in five years time. And I’m sure a host of her fellow Orcadians will now fancy their chances of doing something special.

The prospect of competing so near to home in 2023 should also be a mouthwatering prospect for hundreds of Shetland sportsmen and women. It is a fantastic opportunity to aim for and hopes will be high.

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For well over a week the row rumbled on about whether it would be “safe” or “fair” to have Celtic taking on Rangers in a Scottish Premiership decider.

The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) finally announced the top flight’s post-split fixtures on Wednesday, over a week and a half after it was clear who the top six sides in the division were.

With Celtic needing one more win to clinch the title there were calls, including one from their manager Brendan Rogers, for the holders’ next game to be against their Glasgow rivals. He said in probably any other country in the world they would look to play the game and showcase the football and country on television, whether it be Real Madrid v Barcelona, Manchester United v Manchester City or AC Milan v Inter Milan.

However, former Scottish Police Federation chairman Les Gray claimed that such a “supercharged” encounter as an Old Firm match should not be a potential deciding tie.

Rogers described that as “a sad indictment of the world that it is here at times”. I’ve never been much of a fan of the Celtic boss but I would say he is absolutely correct here.

For far too long the two big Glasgow clubs have been treated differently to the other teams in Scottish football, simply because they are bigger and command a greater support. When did the last Old Firm game take place at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon for instance?

We all know there are many morons who follow these two great sides. But there are also many morons who follow the other clubs in the Premiership. Just because Celtic and Rangers have a greater number should not be the criteria. This needs to change.

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Although not a Liverpool fan I think the exciting brand of football displayed by the current Anfield side under their likeable manager Jurgen Klopp is eminently watchable.

Their 5-1 aggregate victory over Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday evening was not entirely unexpected, holding as they did a 3-0 lead from the first leg, but an early goal from City must have caused a few nerves to quiver.

With Barcelona also crashing out at the hands of Roma, the trophy could really now be anyone’s. Real Madrid are probably the favourites, with Bayern Munich not far behind, but Liverpool will have taken great heart from this week’s result and certainly cannot be ruled out.

The so-called “tiki-taka” style of possession play made famous by Barcelona and which now features at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola may well have had its day. I certainly hope so.

Another pleasing aspect of Liverpool’s success is the emergence of Andy Robertson as a left back of genuine international class. This unassuming player appears to be just getting better and better, which is great news also for the Scottish international squad.

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Golf is definitely not my sport but I was impressed by the way new US Masters champion Patrick Reed held off the opposition on Sunday to claim his first major title.

Reed is not very popular, even in his own country. Most people were either rooting for Irishman Rory McIlroy or one of the other Americans, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, who finished strongly in the final round.

The new champion didn’t do himself any favours when he put a finger to his lips in a “shush” gesture after holing a putt at the Ryder Cup in Scotland a few years ago.

I think he is a fitting winner, however. Not because of his outspokenness, his perceived arrogance, and certainly not because of the allegations thrown at him for a suspected theft in the locker room.

The best thing about Reed is that he has shown once again that you do not have to be supremely fit to get to the top of his sport.

Golf has always had its fatties. From the long-gone days of Ted Ray to more recently Craig Stadler, John Daly, Phil Mickelsen and Colin Montgomerie. And who can forget the pipe-smoking token Scotsman Brian Barnes, or the portly Laura Davies doing her bit for the women.
Even the greatest of them all, Jack Nicklaus, was hardly svelt-like during his playing days.

More power to Reed’s swing I say. And also his waistline.

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Sports fans bade farewell to two very different characters over the past week – former English international footballer Ray Wilkins and darts legend Eric Bristow.

Wilkins had a reputation for playing square passes – Tommy Docherty once joked that the only time he went forward was to take the toss – but there was much more to his game than that. A look at the goal he scored for Manchester United in an FA Cup final will confirm his all-round ability.

He displayed a gentlemanly kind of demeanour which is a world away from most of his successors of today. Even when as a manager Wilkins’ players poked fun at his likeness to the Addams Family character Uncle Fester he took it in good humour, not bothering to mention that his bloated appearance was caused by treatment for ulcerative colitis.

Bristow on the other hand was brash and often appeared graceless and vulgar when involved in a match. I recall willing Scotland’s Jocky Wilson to beat him in the world championship final back in the days when darts players smoked and drank on stage and looked like darts players. Wilson obliged.

In more recent times, however, the “Crafty Cockney” as he was known seemed much more likeable. The local players who met him a few years ago when he travelled to Shetland for a tournament speak of a friendly guy who had time for everybody. It is true that people can change.

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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