Raith Rovers hero David Sinclair set for Hall of Fame induction

David Sinclair in action for Raith Rovers in the 1990s. Pic: Bill Dickman
David Sinclair in action for Raith Rovers in the 1990s. Pic: Bill Dickman

David Sinclair – a player who embodied the spirit of Raith Rovers in the 1990s – is the latest legend to be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.

A rock in both midfield and defence, his fearless performances ensured he was a firm fan favourite, and the solid foundation of the team that enjoyed the greatest success in the club’s history.

‘Sinky’ lifted three trophies in his six years at Stark’s Park - two First Division titles either side of winning the League Cup in 1994 – and he also captained the side against Bayern Munich in Germany.

“It was special times and nobody can take that away from me,” he said.

“Especially for a boy from Valleyfield, who was brought up playing for Dunfermline, only to be released six months after winning the Scottish Youth Cup.

“But when you have a love for football you’ve got to fight for it, and Frank Conner was the one who gave me that chance, and I’ll always be grateful to him.

“He was a ferocious manager, but underneath he had a heart of gold. A lovely man and I owe him a lot.”

When Sinclair arrived at Raith in August 1990 he had a reputation as a hard-running attacking midfielder.

It was under Jimmy Nicholl that he developed into a more defensive role, eventually turning out at centre-half alongside the likes of Shaun Dennis and David Narey.

“When Robbie Raeside left, instead of going to get another centre-half, Jimmy asked me if I’d play there,” he said.

“I said, ‘I can’t kick with my left foot, but I can always practice’, and that’s what we did.

“Big Shaun always played on the right, and Jimmy had me on the park after training most days kicking the ball with my left foot, and that’s where it stemmed from.

“I loved playing midfield, getting stuck in and winning the ball, but needs must, and I suppose he made me into a no-bad centre-half.”

Sinclair recalls turning full-time with Raith as a crucial turning point in his career.

What followed was a fairytale as the club went on to win promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 1992-93.

The crowning triumph came two years later in the shape of the club’s first ever national trophy, beating Celtic on penalties in the Coca-Cola Cup final at Ibrox.

“We didn’t think we had any chance of even getting to the final,” Sinclair said.

“But the way we played in those midweek cup games was just incredible.

“Our league form was out the window, we were rubbish at the weekends but playing great during the week.

“You look back now and what a season we had.

“Jimmy’s mentality was play hard, party, play hard, party, golf. It was absolutely fantastic.”

Sinclair started the final at centre-half but was soon moved into the middle of the park to put the shackles on a Celtic midfield that included John Collins and Paul McStay.

“They were overpowering us in there so he stuck me in midfield to sit, and as most people know, I don’t mind a crunching tackle or two!”, he said.

Winning the cup sent Raith into Europe for the first time, resulting in the highlight of Sinclair’s career – leading the team out in the Olympic Stadium in Munich in the UEFA Cup.

He recalls the shock of being handed the armband ahead of usual captain Dennis.

“He never pulled me aside,” he said. “Nobody, not even Martin Harvey, had an inkling what was happening.

“Still to this day I can’t believe it. Jimmy’s standing there doing the team talk. He’s got the armband in his hand and throws it to me.

“I’m sitting next to big Shaun thinking, ‘what’s going on?’

“I felt for him, but at the same time I was really excited, because I’m leading the team out against Bayern Munich and it’s not every week you get to do that.

“It was pride more than anything, and a dream come true.”

Sinclair performed like a lion in Munich - the team drawing strength and confidence from their skipper - as they led at half-time before losing 2-1.

“The night was special,” he added. “Okay we got beat, but we did a lot better than people predicted.

“The team performance over there was fantastic, and to turn around and see as many Raith supporters as that was incredible.

“My mum, dad and wife at time made the journey on the Rovers bus and they absolutely loved it.

“My mum still says to me that she was greetin’ when she saw me lead the team out.

“It’s probably the highlight of my career.

“I’ve still got my picture up on the wall, the one at the back of the goals saluting the supporters.

“My bairn now watches the video, and I still get goosebumps to this day.”

Sinclair left Rovers a year later, following Jimmy Nicholl to Millwall along with Stevie Crawford and Jason Dair, in a move he regrets.

“In hindsight, it was probably the worst move I ever made leaving Raith,” he said.

“If I’d stayed I’d probably still be there in some capacity now, but things just spiralled and went downhill after that. I fell out of love with football.”

Raith fans, however, will never fall out of love with Sinky, and he is sure to be a popular addition to the Hall of Fame this November.