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How to be the best

posted 22 Sep 2011, 07:10 by Ben MacKinnon   [ updated 27 Oct 2011, 12:59 ]
by Roger Hutchinson 
Almost 30 years ago, in 1983/1984, a Sleat and Strath squad won every domestic trophy it entered for.
They were, I think, a winter and a summer league title, the trophy for the play-off between the Wester Ross and Skye champions (where Skye champions Sleat beat Wester Ross champions Kyleakin 3 - 1 in Kyleakin ... some things don’t change) and three knock-out cups.
It’s probably fair to say that season set the standard for future Sleat and Strath teams. As a young teenager the present manager, D L MacKinnon, was a member of that 83/84 squad.
It is certainly fair to say that D L and his present squad has just upped the bar to a ridiculous height. Whatever Sleat might have done in the past, they never won two consecutive league titles, and they certainly never went through two league seasons back-to-back with a hundred percent record.
So this is the greatest Sleat and Strath team ever, in the 40 successful years of the club’s history. Due to my other commitments (which are chiefly, as Willie MacLeod points out, nurturing in Raasay future opponents of Sleat and Strath) I have not seen much of the present side.
But I’ve seen enough. It is already a fantastic team - quick, intelligent, deadly in front of goal, and with a wonderful collective understanding.
It is also amazingly young. Lauchie MacIntosh might lift the average age of the squad by the equivalent of another full player, but otherwise they are all several years from realising their full potential as individuals and as a team. (This seems, incidentally, to have rubbed off on Lauchie himself, who is playing more like a teenager now than he did when he was nineteen years old and full of care.)
If it can stay together, this Sleat and Strath team has the chance to be the greatest side ever to come out of Skye. There is one way of proving that.
Back in 1984 Skye teams were allowed into the Highland Amateur Cup for the first time. Despite their domestic success, Sleat entered with little real hope. Western Isles clubs were also permitted to enter the Highland Amateur that year, and anybody who thought they were going to stop Ness F C in 1984 needed their head examining.
Since then the performance of Hebridean clubs in the Highland Amateur has been mixed. The trophy has gone back to Lewis several times. But it has never been taken to Skye or the Uists. One team from each of those leagues - Portree and Southend respectively - has been a beaten finalist.
Doing some elementary mathematics, I calculate that the present Sleat and Strath team has six or seven years to go one better than Portree and Southend. (Lauchie is of course the exception. Lauchie is probably another nine or ten years from reaching his prime. I’m talking about the squad as a whole).
I cannot see why it shouldn’t be done. The Highland Cup is a glass ceiling - break it once, and you’ll go through it again. But breaking it for the first time is the biggest task. It would require a Skye team which is fast, clever, mentally strong, fierce in defence, intelligent in midfield, ruthless in attack, and accustomed to winning every time it steps onto the pitch.
Shouldn’t that describe Sleat and Strath AFC in 2012?