It’s nearly that time of the shinty year already
“I always thought that shinty teams bonded after the games,” said the former Chairman “in the bar usually or on the bus - but it seems that nowadays they do it before the season even starts”
“What do you mean?” said the Wing Centre.
“Well that’s the reason for the meeting today up in the conference room at the school. They have all come together to communicate and bond. It’s the latest thing.”
They looked up the road to the bonding building. There was a large group of players and camp followers coming down the road towards the Astro: the bonding was clearly over and soon they would be knocking lumps out of each other in the practice match. There was a thick crust of hoar frost on the artificial surface.
“I wonder what Peter would have made of it?”
“The best. That’s what he made of everything. It’s the only thing to do. Just get on with it.”
“One good thing. At least Terry Butcher is staying with Caley Thistle.”
The Wing Centre looked puzzled. This was unusual. You were not supposed to talk politics in Glen shinty club circles because it only caused disputes. Football was undoubtedly politics and without football why the Glen would have had Ikey and Kelvin and goodness knows how many other players turning out in black and red and doubtless would have won the Camanachd Cup on many occasions. Indeed the possible future growth of football was the strongest reason he could think of to oppose the suggested massive increase in new housing proposed for the village, though a large five figure donation from the developer into Club funds could affect his opinion.
“Why would that be good? “he said hesitantly.
The Chairman eyed him like a housewife who has just found a shredded tissue in a dark washing.
“Because if Caley had lost Butcher, they would undoubtedly have made an offer for Drew MacNeil. Let’s face it; we could not afford to pay what Caley can offer. Probably only Strathglass or at a push Kingussie could match the figures Caley can come up with.
Then if MacNeil went he would want to take his backroom staff, Gemma and Corky and Hendo”
“What about the two Fraser Mackenzies?”
“One would definitely go – if it really comes down to that, perhaps we could ask them to take the second one as well.”
“But it’s not going to happen?”
“No. Though Strathglass are a worry”
“Why is that?”
“They are off on a spending spree. They have an open chequebook and they’re signing players left right and centre. We can’t match that money. You see the toffs on the estates up there who bankroll them regard shinty players as being like stags: they’ll fork out big money for any player that has the shinty equivalent of a ‘good head’. We can’t compete with that.”
"You mean there are actually estate owners up there who fund Strath the same way Abramovich backs Chelsea?”
“Yeah. Don’t you remember when they helicoptered in a guy for a match once? ”
And it was true, though the image of Strath attracting players the way a gamekeeper attracts stags over the march into his estate by scattering bags of pony-nuts in the high corries seemed a bit far-fetched but it does make you think.
“I think ‘Glass have even signed up that journalist guy Kenneth Stephen to do their publicity too”
“What makes you think that?”
“Well, he was on the BBC the other night wearing tweeds and a wax jacket. It’s clear he signed up with them”
“He was on TV as a spokesman on behalf of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, that’s all”
“Well if that’s true, then how did ‘Glass’s new manager get on the BBC Alba Hogmanay show? Prove to me that it was not a smart Kenny Stephen stunt. One minute they don’t have a manager-next minute they have two; then they start signing up all sorts of players and next thing the manager is on TV while the journalist guy is wearing the club tweeds. It all makes sense.”
The Wing Centre didn’t quite think it actually did, though he did admit to himself that it took fewer co-incidences to convict al-Megrahi of the Lockerbie bombing.
There were however times when the former Chairman and all Glenners over a certain age became paranoid over the very idea of Strathglass and that could lead at times to them becoming delusional. It was best to move the subject on.
“I see there’s a new Shinty Year Book out”
“What? Already? The old one’s only just come out”
“No. There is definitely a new one.”
“Good grief. You wait all year for a Shinty Year Book and then two come along at once. “What’s it look like?”
“It’s not out till then end of the month but there is a picture of it on the World of Shinty Facebook page”- and the Wing Centre took out his i-phone and googled up the appropriate url.
The former Chairman put on his glasses and had a look. Then he gasped.
“Well would you believe it? They’ve done it again.”
“What? There’s nothing wrong with that. Neale Reid takes a nice photo. That’s him doing the Usain Bolt at the MacAulay final. Good shot. What’s bothering you?”
“Strathglass are on the front cover yet again- same as last year. That’s two years in a row Strath have been on the front of the Yearbook. Last year it was a picture of young George Phimister- and you can see for yourself they are on it again. That Kenny Stephen is smarter than he looks and he’s certainly bringing them into the public eye.”
“It couldn’t just be him.”
“Of course not. They’ve got the whole press thing sewn up. There’s Roy Mackenzie and Steve Harvey as well: they are two of the biggest shots in the world of the media. There's no mistake about it, Strath are making a big push this year.”
The Wing Centre couldn’t quite see it himself but the former Chairman’s words did cause him to pause a little. Then he brightened up. The Macdonald Cup fixture wasn’t far away. Real shinty-as opposed to paranoia- wasn’t far away.
But if you’re not too sure have a look at the two Yearbook Covers for yourself. See what you think. The other pics are of the boys bonding in the frost. There are Chairmen and Vice Chairmen and former Chairmen in one of the shots but not the former, former Chairman.