16th November 2018
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Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

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Congratulations to Delting on their hard-fought Parish Cup win on Saturday, and commiserations to Southend United who pushed them so hard.

It is rare enough for a local game to end 0-0, and even rarer for it to remain scoreless after extra time when tired legs can often lead to goals.

Astonishingly, Delting’s 4-1 triumph on penalties meant they relied on the spot-kick route throughout the whole of this year’s campaign. So they certainly had plenty of practice.

The final, sadly, was not a match which will go down in history as one of the greatest. But there were several near moments and the posts or bar came to the rescue on at least three occasions.

Delting goalkeeper Iain Devonald was a fitting choice for man of the match. Not just because he saved two penalties but for his all-round composure, almost faultless handling and superior distribution over his Southend counterpart.

Devonald has been in the Shetland squad on a couple of occasions, mainly as deputy to the now departed Erik Peterson, and on Saturday’s form he could well force his way back in before too long.

This is the 14th time the name of Delting will be engraved on the famous trophy, and it means that you still have to go back 36 years for Southend’s solitary success.

Apologies to older readers if I’ve already bored them by recalling what happened in 1982, but it was indeed an eventful competition that year.

The quarter-finals saw Southend come back to draw 2-2 with Sandwick at Boddam, and the following weekend managed to win the replay 4-1 away from home.

The semi-final was another away tie against Delting, then an up-and-coming side. It ended in another 3-3 draw and another replay was necessary.

After Delting won that one 3-2 at Boddam the challenge appeared to be over. But after the intervention of Southend manager Allison Duncan, who protested that Delting had fielded a couple of ineligible Sullom Voe Terminal workers, an emergency committee meeting was hastily convened.

Delting were found to have infringed the rules and another replay was necessary, to be played at Boddam the night before the final, in which Whitedale had claimed a place weeks earlier. This time Southend made no mistake, winning fairly comfortably.

Although it was tough ask to play two games in about 18 hours, Whitedale were not without their own problems. They had asked for the final to be postponed as they had five players either injured or on holiday, but the committee refused.

So on Saturday 7th August, a tired but willing Southend took to the field at Clickimin South against a slightly cheesed-off Whitedale. Both sides were definitely understrength but Whitedale were probably still favourites, having won the trophy three years earlier.

Goals by Peter Hutchison and Barry Davies gave Southend a 2-0 lead and although Giles Roberts pulled one back a resolute defence held out against late pressure for the win.

Player/manager Duncan, who was the only substitute due to injuries, brought himself on for the final couple of minutes. But he was given instructions by Ian Manson to stay out of his own penalty area. I could not repeat the actual words used.

It was a memorable occasion to be part of and I remember well the “speech” from captain Andrew Manson as, stripped to the waist, he received the cup from Unst stalwart Geordie Jamieson.

But it’s high time that Southend consigned that moment to history and secured win number two. They’d better hurry up while Leighton Flaws, one of the best players on Saturday, is still around. Roll on next year.

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In professional football, meanwhile, it was revealed this week that the money generated by English Premier League clubs from gate receipts is negligible in their overall income.

The benefits of television revenue are such that apparently half of the 20 clubs could have played in empty stadiums and still made a pre-tax profit in the first season of the current broadcast deal.

During the 2017-18 campaign the clubs benefited from over £2.4 billion, with the biggest beneficiaries gaining around £150 million each and the bottom recipients pocketing over £94 million.

Just where this is all heading is anyone’s guess, but there is a worry that the importance of having fans coming through the turnstiles is being disregarded somewhat.

While players and managers, however famous or important they may seem, come and go, the supporters are always there. Clubs must not forget that.

On the field at the weekend, sadly, there was nothing to suggest that Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hostpur will not be contesting the top places again this season.

In Scotland, meanwhile, the season is a week older and already some managers are veering towards the controversial.

Following Rangers’ 1-1 draw at Aberdeen, a game the Ibrox side probably deserved to win, new boss Steven Gerrard suggested that his team were “a class above” their opponents.

It could have just been raw emotion which promoted Gerrard’s comments, but he should perhaps be reminded of the last Rangers interviewee who displayed similar crassness.

That was Joey Barton, who claimed that Scott Brown of Celtic was not in his class. Remind me how long Barton lasted at the club after that comment.

Perhaps Gerrard believes the way to succeed is to go down the same route as Celtic boss Brendan Rogers, who sometimes finds if difficult to stop talking about other teams when he should be concentrating on his own side.

Rogers was not at it on Wednesday though when Celtic crashed out of the Champions League, losing to a Greek team which they were superior to.

There are those who say that the Scottish champions are in stagnation, when they should have brought in new blood over the summer. That may be so, but anyone who watched the game against AEK Athens would surely agree they should have done better, even with the present squad.

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One of the biggest shocks of the current cricket season has been how poor India have performed in the test series against England.

Although the first match was fairly close the second was an absolute hiding – an English victory by an innings and 159 runs.

Much has been made of the unfairness of playing in conditions which favour the home side, and the fact that a very high percentage of victories are achieved in that way.

Unfortunately the ridiculous schedule imposed by the governing bodies mean that this is unlikely to change. The English players themselves have experienced similar problems on the last two trips to Australia and India when they had no time to prepare and were roundly hammered.

I’m old enough to recall when a touring side played about three matches prior to the opening test, and continued taking on county sides throughout the summer in between the internationals.

Maybe, as has been suggested, doing away with the toss and giving the visiting team the option of bowling or fielding in every game could go some way towards levelling things up.

The only satisfaction I can take from England’s success this summer is that it has helped diffuse some of the arrogance from the Indian captain Virat Kohli.

Some apologists have said that one of the reasons for Kohli’s loathesome behavour is that he is so revered in his own country. It is simply what happens to people when they are given a god-like status, they maintain.

In answer to that I would mention the names of Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and the greatest of them all Sachin Tendulkar. I can’t recall any of them ever surrendering their humility because of fame. Kohli would do well to take note.

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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