Raith Rovers’ history-maker Jason Dair to be inducted into Hall of Fame

Jason Dair, Raith Rovers, 1990s
Jason Dair, Raith Rovers, 1990s

It all started with a wonder goal in a 7-0 win over St Mirren on the opening day of the 1992-93 season.

Jason Dair was just 17 when he capped his Raith Rovers debut with that stunning lob over Campbell Money – a goal that lives long in the memory of fans who witnessed a special team, and player, being born that day.

Jason Dair was inducted as a member of the Coca-Cola Cup winning team in 2014 - From left: Brian Potter, Jason Dair, Jeff Stelling, Colin Camerion, Stevie Crawford   -  FIFE PHOTO AGENCY -

Jason Dair was inducted as a member of the Coca-Cola Cup winning team in 2014 - From left: Brian Potter, Jason Dair, Jeff Stelling, Colin Camerion, Stevie Crawford - FIFE PHOTO AGENCY -

Within three years of his first senior goal, Dair had won two First Division titles and lifted the Coca-Cola Cup, playing the full 120 minutes and scoring a crucial shoot-out penalty in the win over Celtic in the 1994 final.

He also had the honour of scoring the club’s first ever goal in Europe, and was on the pitch when Rovers’ gave the mighty Bayern Munich a run for their money in the Olympic Stadium.

Now Dair’s major role in the most successful period of Rovers’ history is to be recognised with his induction into the Hall of Fame this November.

“I’m delighted,” Dair told the Press. “The club was a big part of my life, and I’m honoured to be a part of it.

“I’ve been to a few of the Hall of Fame events, and they are great nights, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Having previously been inducted in 2014 as part of the entire Coca-Cola Cup team, he added: “It’s great to be recognised as an individual, as part of that team.”

Dair, the nephew of Raith and Rangers legend Jim Baxter, was playing for Castlebridge when he was spotted and signed by Jimmy Nicholl, alongside another previous inductee into the Hall of Fame, Stevie Crawford.

He stayed on at school to finish his Highers, before turning full-time with Raith in the summer of 1992, but the young YTS did not expect to start the first game of the season.

“I was out and about doing my apprentice duties around the stadium when I was told to get back to the dressing room because I was in the squad,” he said.

“I wasn’t just in the squad, I was actually starting! I’d done all the pre-season and Jimmy had just decided he was going to take a chance on me.

“It happened with most of the younger ones – Stevie and Mickey got in after that.

“I was the first to make the breakthrough, but they were the ones who went on to make international careers – not me!”

Dair’s debut season ended with a First Division winners medal, and the club’s first ever promotion to the Scottish Premier League.

“At that time I’d just left school and was thinking, ‘this is great, this what football is all about.’

“It’s not until later in your career you realise how lucky you were to be part of that, winning things, and being part of a great team.

“There was good character and experience in the squad, alongside a few decent younger ones coming through, so it was right place at the right time for us.”

Dair scored six times as Raith were relegated from the Premier League in 1994, but the following season would become a defining one both for the player, and the club.

Having missed the Coca-Cola Cup semi-final win over Airdrie through injury, Dair’s starting place for the final was by no means guaranteed, but Nicholl placed his faith in youth, sticking him in alongside Cameron and Crawford in a dynamic midfield trio.

“We just went out and enjoyed ourselves,” Dair explained. “I’m one of those people who doesn’t get too nervous playing football, I was just excited to be in the starting 11.

“Coming out of the tunnel at Ibrox and looking straight across to the Raith fans was amazing – I can remember that vividly.”

Dair made a vital contribution, taking the corner that led to Crawford’s opener, while it was his shot that Gordon Marshall spilled allowing Gordon Dalziel to net the equaliser.

Despite picking up a knee injury during the game, Dair would also take a penalty in the shoot-out to help Rovers lift their first national trophy.

“My adrenalin kept me going,” he said. “I managed to score a penalty but I was on crutches after the game.

“It was a great feeling to be a part of it, and coming home to all the messages from your friends and family.

“The celebrations in Kirkcaldy went on for weeks. It’s something I’m proud of.”

It took Raith into the UEFA Cup where Dair carved out another piece of history for himself, scoring the opening goal in the club’s first match, a 4-0 home win over Gotu Itrottarfelag of the Faroe Islands.

He said: “You don’t realise these things at the time, but now when you look back at it, to be the first European scorer for Raith, is a great thing ... even if it was from a yard out!”

Dair went on to feature in both legs against Bayern, before departing the club, along with Davie Sinclair and Crawford, to join Nicholl at Millwall.

He returned little more than a year later, spending another two years at Stark’s Park between 1997 and 1999, although times were tougher second time around.

“I went a bit further back the park and played either left midfield or left back,” he said.

“I managed to play a couple of games in the same team as my brother, Lee, which was good, but it wasn’t the same as the first time around.

“The club was in a bit of bother, struggling to pay the wages, and when Dunfermline enquired about me, they were keen to sell me on.

“It was a nominal fee but I think it covered the wages for a couple of months. That was the unfortunate state they were in at the time.”

In all Dair made 199 appearances for Raith, scoring 23 goals, then going on to enjoy four fruitful years at the Pars, before making moves to Motherwell and Livingston.

A third spell at Raith looked on the cards in September 2006 when he featured as a trialist in a goalless draw against Alloa under Craig Levein, but his comeback lasted just one game, before a brief spell at East Fife brought the curtain down on a successful playing career.

He is now a first team coach at Dunfermline working alongside his former team mate Crawford, but his place is among the Rovers legends.