Romeo Borella was a true Fife footballing legend

St Andrews United have been leading the tributes to their Scottish Cup goalscoring hero Romeo Borella who has passed away aged 87.

Monday, 8th November 2021, 11:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 7:37 am
Romeo Borella, from Crail, played a significant part in the history of St Andrews United

United announced the passing of Borella over the weekend, describing him as a “legend”.

His finest moment in a Saints shirt came in May 1960 when his two goals helped the north east Fife club to a 3-1 Scottish Junior Cup final win over Greenock.

Donald Gellatly from the club said: “The word legend is often used out of context in Scottish football but Romeo deserves to be remembered as a key figure in the history of St Andrews United. ”

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Borella was born in Crail on March 1, 1934, the grandson of an ice cream merchant from northern Italy, and was educated at Waid Academy in Anstruther.

He worked in his father’s café and shop selling ice cream while playing football with Crail Amateurs before earning a trial at St Andrews United.

The strong inside forward made his debut for Saints against Steelend Victoria at the age of 17 in April 1951 before joining Thornton Hibs the following summer.

He quickly became a popular figure around Thornton, scoring goals on a regular basis, and continued to play football throughout his spell of national service at RAF Leuchars.

Following a terrific performance when Thornton Hibs drew with Kilsyth Rangers in the Scottish Junior Cup, he agreed to join the latter for a nominal transfer fee in July 1955, playing in the Wee Gers’ Scottish Junior Cup final defeat by Banks o’ Dee in May 1957.

Borella quit football in order to concentrate on working at the family café but he was pressurised into joining St Andrews United by secretary Jimmy Spence at the start of the 1959/60 season.

The charismatic Fifer then scored his first goal for Saints against Crossgates Primrose the following November and played a key role in the team’s run to the Scottish Junior Cup final six months later.

However, he nearly missed the biggest match in St Andrews United’s history because he sustained a broken jaw during the replayed semi-final win over Thornton Hibs at Stark’s Park.

Thankfully, he made a significant recovery within three weeks so he was able to defy doctor’s orders by featuring in the final against Greenock Juniors.

Greenock held a 1-0 lead at half time before Borella hit twice to help turn the tables in front of 34,603 people at Hampden Park.

Romeo also helped Saints win the Fife League that spring and he scored a total of 16 goals in 39 appearances for the club before hanging up his boots at the age of 26 in order to focus upon work at the family café once again.

Borella and his wife Patricia decided to start a new life in Toronto with their young son midway through the 1960s.

The couple’s son was named after Gary Player since Patricia went into labour whilst watching the famous South African golfing at the Old Course and Romeo went on to work as a warehouse manager for a shipping and receiving company.

Borella also remained involved with football by setting up a youth team in Toronto as well as coaching at the Ontario Soccer Association.

Patricia passed away in 2010 so Borella moved back to Crail, buying a flat overlooking the old family café. He donated his Scottish Junior Cup winner’s medals to the local museum.

He enjoyed socialising with old friends, attending St James’ Church on the Scores and watching St Andrews United on a regular basis.

Mr Gellatly added: “Romeo remained active until the very end of his life but his passing still came as a shock to his friends and colleagues at The Clayton Caravan Park Recreation Ground, including former team mate Tommy Will.

"Officials at St Andrews United would like therefore to pass on sincere condolences to Romeo Borella’s family and funeral details will be announced in due course.”

Thanks to St Andrews United for the background information.