Lerwick Thistle are a club that epitomises everything a local, Shetland football club should be – age groups brimming with players and volunteers that are all working as a collective to make a difference both on and off the park. After speaking with the team at Lerwick Thistle, it’s clear the club have a real togetherness and are truly passionate about developing young footballers in Shetland.
The club itself compete from the Under 7’s right up through to the seniors, who’s B side celebrated a league win in 2015, only a year before the A team made a huge mark on the 2016 season by taking home the prestigious County Shield.
The seniors now have approximately 30 players, some of which lend their hands to coaching the youth prospects that are surging through the ranks. When it comes to the Under 18’s through to the youngest on the books, there’s an estimated 100+ plying their trade. There’s almost 20 individuals, a combination of current & former players and parents, who have coaching and committee roles at the club. This includes players coaching the younger age groups, those responsible for chasing memberships, organising meetings, liaising with the Shetland Football Association and more. The coaching volunteers don’t just dedicate an extra couple of hours per week to coaching, many of them have also been attending certified training courses through the Scottish Football Association, all funded by the club.
Michael Duncan, club chairman, said “they are a vital part of the clubs’ operations”, whether that be the aforementioned responsibilities or helping “deal with merchandise, purchasing equipment, dealing with finances fundraising activities.”
The massive team effort doesn’t stop with the players, coaches and committee members. The parents play a massive part too, helping with fundraising events such as the annual coffee morning and football festival, washing strips, driving players to away matches and selling raffle tickets. A “team effort” that is “hugely appreciated” by all at the club.
Away from volunteers and membership fees, the club also relies on sponsorship to help the club keep improving and moving forward.
The current main sponsor is Jewson’s, the UK’s leading builders’ merchant, that have a base here in Shetland at the Gremista Industrial Estate. They sponsored the club’s kits throughout the age groups, which has allowed for the renewal of football kits and subsequently reduced club fundraising efforts - nor has it had to raise its fees for players.
Both main sponsors, Jewson’s and the pelagic fishing boat Adenia contributed sponsorship towards the club’s merchandise range. Michael says the “merchandise has helped the club rediscover its identity”, thus meaning that club is visible within the community once again and this gives the club a “much more positive image and attracts new players and volunteers.”
On top of this, the club have also managed to take away the Under 12’s team to Aberdeen & Orkney during the year for the first time ever, which provided a great experience for the young Jags coming through, with the team managing to win the Flotta Cup in Orkney this Summer.
However, it’s off the park that really helps set the club apart. With the vast numbers the club has available, they always look to see where they can contribute locally. Like other clubs, they aided the Shetland Junior FA beach cleans during the year and they are introducing an initiative that looks to recycle football boots throughout the year. The cost to constantly upgrade boots as kids grow can be quite daunting, so Thistle have looked to try recycling boots within the club to reduce the burden on parents, something that emphasises the family feel and togetherness around the club.
To take the beach cleans one step further, the club have "taken part in the Voar Redd Up over the past few years, with around 60 players, coaches and parents taking part in helping the beach clean at East Quarff year on year."
Another local initiative the club gets involved in is providing manpower to the local Shetland Foodbank in a bid to play a small part in helping the vulnerable within Shetland’s community. They have assisted at two separate weekends, with around 20 people helping out both times.
Overall, the club play a big part of the footballing ecosystem in Shetland and they certainly do their bit to contribute to Shetland outwith the football pitch, utilising their numbers and showing an eagerness to aid a number of local initiatives – something this website was started for, showcasing the good of Shetland and how we can all interlink.
Do you want to become part of the team at Thistle? Find out more about them here. Alternatively, if you have a local group, business, initiative or organisation that you feel should feature, please get in touch.