Raith Rovers Development Squad paid tribute to Jim Baxter with a visit to the footballing legend’s statue in his home town.
Head coach Craig Easton took the up-and-coming teenagers to Hill of Beath ahead of Monday night’s Jim Baxter event at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy, which celebrates 50 years since a Baxter-inspired Scotland beat then world champions England at Wembley.
Craig said the idea behind the visit was for the youngsters to learn a bit more about the Fife footballing hero.
“There’s not may statues of people in their home town so that tells you something about the man’s legacy and how he’s thought of in these parts and elsewhere,” he said.
“If you talk to people about who is the best Scottish player of all time his name will come up in the conversation.
“He’s always there so I’m trying to give the boys in the squad and idea of how good he was.
“Jim started at Raith Rovers then went on to bigger things with Rangers, Sunderland and Scotland. If these boys could emulate that it would be fantastic.”
The Development Squad is made up of promising local youngsters who have just left school with the hope that they will go on and progress to the first team.
“We’ve had a lot of good players coming through like Ross Callaghan, Lewis Vaughan, Ross Matthews and David Bates who is now at Rangers, so hopefully this is the next batch,” Craig said.
“We’re going to have 10 apprentices running next season, and we have a full compliment this year.
“It’s a big thing to come in every day and train full time but I can see that even after six months they’re coming on physically and bits of their game are improving so they’re working on little things every day and I think that learning about the club and its history is part of their development as well.”
Famously, Celtic and Scotland captain Scott Brown also came from Hill of Beath and said he could see the Jim Baxter statue from his bedroom window.
“Well, imagine growing up with that outside your house,” Craig said, “That must have been inspiring and he’s gone on to captain Scotland.
“For this little village to produce two Scotland internationals there could be something in that.
“It’s a long journey for these boys so I’m wanting them to think about that and be inspired too.”
Recent comments in the media from Queen of The South Player and Hearts coach John Rankin about youngsters only interested in becoming ‘Facebook Footballers’ doesn’t apply at Stark’s Park according to Craig.
“I’m really lucky. I’ve got a group of players here who I need to pull out of the gym.
There’s something in what John was saying. But there’s the other side of it where kids are on technology nowadays and we have to embrace that.
“But the point there was that some of them think they’ve made it before they’ve even pulled on a first team jersey.
“That was one of the biggest things about me. I wasn’t the best player in the world, but I was the hardest worker. That’s the way I was.
“I was taught by my family that I had to earn it and I was at Dundee Utd where you weren’t let away with doing nothing.
“I enjoyed working hard and I had to do that to give myself the best opportunity, and that’s what I’m saying to these guys. Don’t go away after the two or three years that you’ve been in the development squad and think what could have been.
“It’s a great opportunity, you might as well give it everything, but that said, it’s down to us as coaches to set standards.
“Are you letting them go away at 1 o’clock in the afternoon? You as a coach and the club have to take some responsibility, so there’s a bit of both.”
Monday night’s 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 ‘Slim Jim’ including former Scotland boss Craig Brown, author Val McDermid, former Prime Minister and Rovers fan Gordon Brown and Jim McCalliog who scored in the legendary 1967 match at Wembley.
All the money raised from the event will go towards funding the squad.
“To run this squad costs money,” Craig said, “The board put in half and the other half is funded by donations.
“All the money from the Jim Baxter celebration is going towards it as well, so hopefully people will come along.
“And who knows? We might get another Jim Baxter from this group of players.”
Tickets for the event cost just £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.
Call the Adam Smith Theatre box office on 01592-583302 or order via the website www.onfife.com/venues/adam-smith-theatre.