Celebrating Jim Baxter 50 years on

Jim Baxter in 1964.
Jim Baxter in 1964.

It’s one of the most iconic images in the history of Scottish football.

Scotland’s Jim Baxter tormenting then world champions England at Wembley Stadium by playing keepie-uppie on the wing during a 3-2 victory.

Jim Baxter
Playing keepie uppie versus England at Wembley 1967

Jim Baxter Playing keepie uppie versus England at Wembley 1967

Not only did Baxter’s audacious moment of skill on April 15, 1967 antagonise his opponents, his team mate Denis Law was less than pleased, feeling that this was Scotland’s best chance to rack up a few goals against the Auld Enemy.

Baxter though had other ideas, preferring to irritate the English – “Jist pit the ba’ at my feet”.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary Raith Rovers, Baxter’s first professional club, are putting together an event at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy on Monday, April 17.

The show will have film footage of the 1967 game and many other memorable Baxter moments edited by Raith TV as well as input from various celebrities who had connections with Baxter.

The event will raise funds for Rovers’ player development squad which hopes to uncover the next generation of players with Baxter’s skills.

Born in Hill of Beath on September 29 1939, Jim Baxter was born and raised a Fifer.

He was working as a coal miner when he was spotted playing for junior side Crossgates Primrose by Rovers’ scout, the late Jim McDermid.

He scored on his debut against Airdrie in 1958, netting the opener in a 4-0 win, which the Kirkcaldy Times – then a sister paper to the Fife Free Press – hailed as “the seal on a performance full of promise and intelligence”.

A memorable game against Rangers – Raith rallied from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Ibrox – effectively sealed his move west for £17,500, a Scottish record at the time.

Though he would go on to become a legend at the Glasgow side he always insisted the Raith victory was his favourite of all the games he played there.

Three league championships in four seasons followed with Rangers, along with three Scottish Cups in a row and four League Cups – plus 34 caps for Scotland including the legendary performance at Wembley in 1967.

He retired from football aged just 31 in 1970 and a sad decline followed – two liver transplants by the age of 55 and huge gambling debts. His death aged just 61 in April 2001 robbed the nation of a true sporting icon.

Since then ‘Slim Jim’ has been inducted into the SFA’s Hall of Fame and in 2003 a statue was erected in his home town.

Dave Wann, club director, said: “We have a number of special guests coming along on the night who had a personal connection with Jim Baxter.

“Jim McCalliog scored in the 3-2 game, Willie Henderson was a good friend of Jim’s and as some people know, though many don’t, our very own Val McDermid’s father, also Jim, was the Raith Rovers scout who spotted Jim playing for Crossgates Primrose.”

Joining them will be former Kirkcaldy MP Gordon Brown, who unveiled the statue in Hill of Beath, and ex-Scotland manager Craig Brown.

“Dave said: “When Jim left Rovers to sign for Rangers it was actually Craig Brown who was given the task of looking after Jim so he’s bound to have a few stories to tell!”

Tickets for the event are available from today (Thursday) at £20 for a standard ticket or £30 for VIP which will includes a pie and a pint and chance to meet the VIP guests in the Beveridge Suite before the show.

Standard tickets are available online, by phone or in person at the box office, but VIP tickets must be bought on the phone or in person.

The club is also looking for sponsors for the event who should get in touch via email at pdf@raithrovers.net.

Dave said: “It’s going to be a night to remember with all the money going to enhance the club’s future.”