Happy 27/11: Confidence, philosophy & skill of team ...

Raith Rovers - 'Brown Book' - historical archive kept by Fife Free Press of matched dating back to 1960s.
Raith Rovers - 'Brown Book' - historical archive kept by Fife Free Press of matched dating back to 1960s.
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Former Fife Free Press sports editor John Greechan on a story that never gets old ...

Tuesdays with Jimmy were more than just enjoyable.

John Greechan, chief sports writer, Scottish Daily Mail

John Greechan, chief sports writer, Scottish Daily Mail

They provided a valuable insight into the football philosophy behind that magical day in November, 1994.

As sports editor of the Fife Free Press way back when, it was a privilege to enjoy a weekly sit-down with Jimmy Nicholl in the manager’s office at Stark’s Park.

If the quotes were always firey and full of fun, the off-the-record stuff was where the real education took place.

My memories of those meetings during the Coca-Cola Cup run are of the exuberant Nicholl’s confidence in the team he’d put together. More than anything, he took a special pride in the YTS boys – Stevie Crawford, Mickey Cameron and Jason Dair – whose energy would play such an important part in a momentous victory.

One very definite recollection is of Nicholl explaining why he wanted to start with the trio in midfield against Celtic, arguing that their pace and energy would cause terrible problems for opponents missing the all-action style of the suspended Peter Grant; if Paul McStay got past one of these kids, Jimmy explained, he’d have to beat ‘em again ten yards further up the park.

The story of Raith’s ‘miraculous’ triumph has been told so often that the uneducated might suspect divine intervention played a part.

As any one of a hundred tales from the boot room would testify, though, this was a win based on a flexible strategy - and excellent football.

Often overlooked is the fact that Rovers had a damned good side. Seriously, look through that starting XI now – including former and future Scotland internationals – and just consider how many of them would walk into a decent Scottish Premiership team today.

Our small party in the FFP pool car travelled to Ibrox with some degree of confidence, then, when the big day arrived. Alas, despite repeated viewings, the day itself passed in something of a professional blur.

I’m pretty sure I scribbled ‘glorious from Crawford’ in my notebook as Stevie bagged the opener.

To my eternal shame, I clearly remember scratching ‘Game over’ – underlined – when Charlie Nicholas made it 2-1 with six minutes left.

What went down in the notebook when Dazza’s famous nose made such, ahem, clean contact for the late equaliser? Or when Scott Thomson threw himself to his right to foil McStay? No idea.

Somewhere in the offices of the FFP, though, lurks The Brown Book. It’s a tome containing handwritten stats from every Raith game since the 60s. Flick through to 27.11.94 and you’ll find all the usual details – line-ups, scorers etc – along with just one line declaring: ‘First major trophy in club history.’

A short enough story, retold – with added details and embellishments - time and again. Funny but, even for those who were there, it never gets old ...

John Greechan is currently chief sports writer at the Scottish Daily Mail.

>> This article first appeared in our Raith Rovers’ Hall of Fame supplement.