From keeper to striker – who were best for Spurs, Thistle, Whalsay and Whitedale?
Selecting a top 11 players from each of Shetland’s current eight premier clubs, covering the past 60 years, was never going to be straightforward.
There are no doubt some who disagree with the choices – a few have already made their feelings known, politely of course – but by and large the idea has been reasonably well received.
Last week covered Celtic, Delting, Ness United and Scalloway, and things do not get easier with the next four teams. But here goes, starting with Spurs.
As goalkeeper I would go for Allan Leslie, who held the position for most of the 1990s. Like Clive Watt of Celtic he was unlucky to play around the same time as Thistle pair John Johnson and Bobby Wiseman, otherwise he would surely have gained some county caps.
Ritchie Smith would be my right back with Johnny Wiseman from an earlier era on the left side. The central defensive partnership must be Robert Leask and Alex Watt, who formed such a formidable barrier for so many years. Only Andrew Flett from the current Spurs team comes anywhere near the standard of that pair.
In midfield a place must be found for James Johnston, who holds the Shetland record for appearances jointly with centre half Leask. Leask’s brother George is in the middle, although if Kenny Malcolmson had not been claimed by Ness United he would certainly have been in contention. The powerful shooting and strong running of Davie Johnston on the left would also get him a place.
Up front I was tempted by Jimmy Tulloch, doyen of wingers from the early 1960s, but was more impressed by Bruce Williamson’s longevity and all-round ability. Paul Molloy from the present team, the most prolific scorer in the isles for the last few years, would lead the line with the guile of George Watt making him an excellent strike partner.
Thistle is the most difficult team of all to choose as it was my own club both as a player and a manager. There were about 25 names in the running and whittling that down to 11 has caused much head-scratching. I ended up taking advice from a couple of others here.
There were a number of top goalkeepers over the past 40-plus years. The two who stand out are Bobby Wiseman and John Johnson, although Kenny Dalziel and Bruce Park, and currently Saul Swanson, are also worthy of mention. There is little between Wiseman and Johnson, with the latter having the edge in several areas, but Wiseman’s phenomenal performances for Shetland in the 2005 island games-winning side is probably the clincher.
Robert Leask just edges out Billy Dickson and Keith Leslie for the right back position, while Michael Johnson is peerless on the other flank. I would have Robert Scott in central defence, but who to choose as his partner is not so easy. Ronnie Jamieson and Michael Duncan have strong claims, but my co-selectors push me to go for Duncan’s brother Martin. The younger Duncan may not have played for Shetland but he would do anything asked of him, they say, an endearing quality indeed.
Midfield is probably the most straightforward area for selection. Gordon Lawson, the most consistent team mate I ever had, is an automatic choice on the right side, as are Neil Gray in the centre and Stuart Smith on the left.
Angus Murray needs to get one of the three striking roles, but he would have to move to the right to accommodate the left-footed David Leask. I would have full faith in Murray to do that, however. Completing the trio would be Paul Spence – with Kenny Gair, George Simpson, Robert Adamson and Sam Walker possibly unlucky to miss out.
Moving on to Whalsay, the Bonnie Isle side is the antithesis of Thistle in that it has never been blessed with an abundance of top keepers. The one exception is Grant Thomson who is pretty much nailed on.
What a defence Whalsay would have, however. A back four of Richard Arthur, John Montgomery, Robert Irvine and Wilbert Jamieson is up there with the best of all the eight sides – and I would guess they would collectively boast the second highest number of county caps after Spurs and Delting.
The midfield is also highly impressive, with Graeme Sandison, Karl Williamson and Ian Irvine the pick of the bunch. John Stewart, who made his solitary inter-county appearance in 1965, was the only other name in contention.
Michael Williamson, another of Shetland’s greatest ever goalscorers, would be the first name on my list of strikers. David Murray also gets a slot, with Wilbert Shearer just pipping Bobby Irvine and John Simpson to complete the trio of forwards.
The final team in the list is Whitedale, so strong during the 1980s and after a long period in the doldrums currently enjoying something of a resurgence with two league titles in the last three years.
The goalkeeper is obviously Ian Morrison, with his twin brother Billy at right back. Their cousin Ivor gets one of the centre back positions, with Duncan Fraser and Piotr Drozdowski from the current side completing the back four.
A slot in the middle of the park must be found for Mick Bolton, a player who would surely have gained more county caps if had not played at a time when so many top class midfielders were around. On either side I would go for Lorne McNiven from the present day team, and Irishman Sean O’Connor on the left.
With Ernie Smith rightly claimed by Scalloway, where he spent the most prolific part of his playing days, the striking positions leave some food for thought. I reckon the partnership of Mick Davies and Nigel Llewellyn would take some beating, with Craig Nicolson, now managing the team, slotting in as well.
If you have your own thoughts on any of these combined XIs, or think someone else deserves a mention, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
JAMES J TULLOCH
JOHN A IRVINE