A night of inspiration for Raith Rovers youngsters at Baxter celebration

Raith Rovers Development Squad coach Craig Easton and Val McDermid (all pics by  Fife Photo Agency)
Raith Rovers Development Squad coach Craig Easton and Val McDermid (all pics by Fife Photo Agency)
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The magic of Jim Baxter was brought to life on the big screen in Kirkcaldy last night to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his greatest hour at Wembley.

It was on April 15, 1967 that Slim Jim inspired Scotland to a famous 3-2 victory over world champions, England – a game defined in footballing history as he played keepie-uppie while walking along the touchline.

Craig Easton, Val McDermid, Jim McCalliog and Gordon Brown

Craig Easton, Val McDermid, Jim McCalliog and Gordon Brown

Five decades later, Baxter’s family, footballing legends and fans packed the Adam Smith Theatre for a night in his honour.

Hosted by Bill Leckie, special guests included Jim McCalliog, who scored the winning goal in that landmark game on his international debut for Scotland, former Rangers’ star Willie Johnstone, ex-Scotland boss Craig Brown, and author Tom Miller, who wrote a book on Baxter.

They were joined by Gordon Brown, whose idea inspired the event, and author Val McDermid, Raith director, whose father Jim, a scout for Raith Rovers, discovered the teenage Baxter playing junior football for Crossgates Primrose.

The night was rich with anecdotes about Baxter, and clips from his career as well as the highlights of the ‘67 game on the big screen.

Jon Greer, Craig Easton, Val McDermid, Jim McCalliog, Willie Johnston, Debbie McCalliog, Gordon Brown and host Bill Leckie

Jon Greer, Craig Easton, Val McDermid, Jim McCalliog, Willie Johnston, Debbie McCalliog, Gordon Brown and host Bill Leckie

The Kirkcaldy theatre was a fitting location given Baxter’s pro career started with Raith Rovers, and the money raised from the event went to support the club’s youth development project.

Craig Easton, head coach of the Youth Development Squad, said it was a great night.

“It was perfect combination of the ‘67 game, celebrating the fact that Jim Baxter was a Rovers player and the stories from the star guests,” he said.

“I want to thank everyone who bought a ticket. We had a good crowd come along on the night.

Jim Baxter's Scotland team mate Jim McCalliog

Jim Baxter's Scotland team mate Jim McCalliog

“Also I had a lot of help from the Raith Rovers staff. We have people getting involved like the guys from Raith TV. They don’t get paid, they just do it for the love of the club.

“They all do a brilliant job and you really feel people coming together at the club. There was a process behind the scenes in putting this night on and everyone working together is healthy for the club I think.”

Craig says he is happy with his squad performance this season and the money raised – just under £5000 on Monday night – will go towards his future plans.

“You’ve always got to work a season ahead in your mind,” he said, “And I’m happy with how it has gone this year.

Bill Leckie, Jim McCalliog, Craig Brown, Val McDermid, Willie Johnston and Gordon Brown at the  Jim Baxter Celebration

Bill Leckie, Jim McCalliog, Craig Brown, Val McDermid, Willie Johnston and Gordon Brown at the Jim Baxter Celebration

“I think we’ve only scratched the surface of this development squad initiative. We’ll build on that next season.

“Obviously we’ll be adding players but the lads we have here at the moment have made a great start and I’m really excited at what lies ahead for this group of players,” he said.

Craig says he hopes that by coming along to the show on Monday his players will feel inspired to push on and break through into the first team.

“We got a bit of the history of the club on Monday night too and they all really enjoyed it,” he said.

“I’m always looking for inspiration for the youngsters coming through at the club, so to me that’s as much of an education as being on the pitch.

“We were listening to ex-players like Jim and Willie talking about playing in front of 100,000 people and playing against teams like Bayern Munich, the guys were amazed.

Gordon Brown pays tribute to Jim Baxter

Gordon Brown pays tribute to Jim Baxter

“Hearing these stories and learning from ex-pros like them really was inspiring.

“It was a great night for my boys.”

Bill Leckie in converstaion with  Jim McCalliog

Bill Leckie in converstaion with Jim McCalliog