A special reunion 20 years on

The Raith Rovers team celebrating winning the Coca-Cola Cup in 1994 when they beat Celtic in the final.
The Raith Rovers team celebrating winning the Coca-Cola Cup in 1994 when they beat Celtic in the final.
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Where are they now?

It’s a question often asked by football supporters when their team celebrates a significant milestone.

For Raith Rovers fans, the answers will be on stage at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy on Monday, November 10, when the club’s greatest ever side come together for a special reunion.

The sold-out Hall of Fame show will mark the 20th anniversary of the famous Coca-Cola Cup win over Celtic and will see the entire team of legends inducted as one.

Two of the key figures from that historic side, manager Jimmy Nicholl and penalty kick hero Scott Thomson, launched the countdown to the big night at Stark’s Park last Friday.

It may be two decades since they last shared a dressing room, but the banter flowed throughout a 30-minute chat, with Thomson’s revelations of a secret goalkeeper bonus of particular interest to his former boss!

It was an insight into the type of humour we can expect at this year’s Hall of Fame reunion.

“If this night is as good as the previous ones then it’s going to be a great occasion,” explained Jimmy, who has appeared on stage at each of the previous two Hall of Fame events.

“It will be especially great to see all the players from 1994. You see them now and again but you don’t get them all collectively together.

“Twenty years seems a long time, but I still remember leaving Belfast when I was 15 ... and that was 40 years ago!

“It’s amazing to look back, then look at the players now and see how they’ve changed. We’ve all changed.

“You don’t appreciate it at the time, but as the years go on and you have these celebrations you realise what it meant to the players, supporters and community.

“It was an even greater achievement because of where we started - we were part-time and just slowly built everything up.

“I don’t think Celtic would be celebrating 20 years on if they’d beaten us. It would be just another trophy to them.

“That’s why it means so much to myself, and to everyone associated with the club at the time.”

The greatest comfort Jimmy takes from the 1994 cup final heroics was that the team did themselves justice.

“Most of the time, when you play one of the Old Firm, you’re playing a very good team,” he said.

“My biggest fear was that after all the excitement and fun we had in the build-up, we’d get gubbed five or six nil.

“You worry for the players. As much as you prepare them you hope they rise to the occasion, but you’re apprehensive over how they’re going to get on.

“The best feeling was after 70 minutes when I said ‘that’ll do me’. We hadn’t put ourselves to shame, and I could start enjoying it.

“When you go 2-1 down you start worrying all over again, but I wasn’t worried in extra-time.

“Our just lads were running the legs off the Celtic boys. I don’t think Thommo had much to do, until he did his thing in the shoot-out.

“Looking back I’m so proud of them. Winning the cup was special, but getting the club into Europe was the biggest thing for me.”

For goalkeeper Thomson, the man with the distinction of making the most important save in Rovers’ history, the Hall of Fame show cannot come soon enough.

“I can’t wait for it,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of get togethers over the years but this will be the big one that hopefully everybody can attend and will be a great occasion.

“Twenty years ago I was still in the early stages of my career. You move from one thing to another and gradually the cup win gets further and further back, but this 20 year thing brings everything back to everybody.”

Thomson looks back on Raith’s glory years and puts the team’s success on the park down to the team spirit off the park.

“That was one thing about being here, there was never a dull moment,” he said. “The young ones were always up to something and the older heads were trying to keep a lid on it - although some of the older heads were probably worse than the younger ones at times!

“That was all part of whole camaraderie of the club at the time. It was a good place to work and play your football, and it was an exciting place to be when we were in the Premier League, doing well in cups, and playing in Europe.

“Dressing rooms don’t win you games but they certainly give you a good chance. I’ve been lucky enough to play for a long time, and been involved in the coaching side as well, and that was probably one of best dressing rooms I’ve ever been in.

“I don’t know what it was. Things just fell into place. People got on with each other, and there was a work ethic. When you came in, you knew you were coming in to work.

“If you did well there was a reward, like a wee day off or Jimmy might take you golfing. There was always that incentive to enjoy yourself and focus towards winning football matches.”

Thomson’s has mixed memories of the cup run as he was sent off in the semi-final victory over Airdrie for catching the ball outside his penalty box.

It was a situation that gave sub ‘keeper Brian Potter the chance to become a hero with the penalty shoot-out save that took Rovers into the final.

“I saw the red card and I thought that was it,” Thomson said. “I can’t remember what time it was in the game but I was just gutted for the team, not for myself.

“The interpretation of the law is totally different now - I don’t think I would have been sent off nowadays - but it all adds to the story.

“Brian was just a young apprentice at the time and was a good character. He handled the occasion brilliantly.

“People forget he had to get through extra-time as well when Airdrie had all the momentum, but I think he always fancied himself in penalties.”

Thomson’s redemption would come in the final itself, where his iconic penalty shoot-out save to deny Celtic skipper Paul McStay secured Raith their first major honour.

“Everybody remembers that because it was the last action in the game, but it was a terrific team performance before that to get us there,” he said.“Everybody played their part - there wasn’t a failure on the day.”

The penalty save is only one memory from a day Thomson will never forget.

“I remember most of the day, from getting up and reading the papers, to all the banter flying about on the bus to the game,” he said.

“I remember going out for the warm-up and I was the first out. There was no-one in the ground, nothing.

“By the time I came back in the place was full - it was like the flick of a switch.

“I remember bits and bobs of the match, but when it came to penalties I remember telling Brian Potter that I would definitely go to my right for the first two.

“So what did I do? I went to my left. I think John Collins stuck it to my right, and I was thinking, ‘why did I change it?’

“That’s one thing that’s always stuck in my head, although it didn’t matter in the end.”

Jimmy Nicholl is currently manager of Cowdenbeath, while Scott Thomson has spent the past few seasons as a goalkeeper coach at Dundee United and Hibs.

The Raith Rovers Hall of Fame show takes place on the evening of Monday, November 10, at Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy and features guest speakers Jeff Stelling and Charlie Nicholas.

Tickets for the event, which doubles up as a club fundraiser, sold out in December.