25 years ago Jimmy Nicholl arrived at Raith Rovers ...

Danny Lennon (far left) looks on as Jimmy Nicholl and Gordon Dalziel parade the Coca Cola League Cup, won by Raith Rovers in 1994.
Danny Lennon (far left) looks on as Jimmy Nicholl and Gordon Dalziel parade the Coca Cola League Cup, won by Raith Rovers in 1994.

November 27, 1994 is a date seared in the memories of every single Raith Rovers fan.

And 25 years ago today, November 20, 1990, was the day Jimmy Nicholl first sat behind the manager’s desk in that small office at Stark’s Park.

Adam Smith Theatre - Kirkcaldy - Fife -' Hall of Fame 2014 -'Jimmy Nicholl brings the Coca Cola Cup on stage '  -  FIFE PHOTO AGENCY -

Adam Smith Theatre - Kirkcaldy - Fife -' Hall of Fame 2014 -'Jimmy Nicholl brings the Coca Cola Cup on stage ' - FIFE PHOTO AGENCY -

It was a Tuesday night when he was formally unveiled by the board as the club’s new player-manager.

The announcement wrong-footed everyone.

The media’s speculative shortlist hadn’t hinted at Nicholl and, indeed, just 24 hours before the appointment, the names in the frame were still those of Willie McLean - who didn’t want to uproot his family from the west coast - club captain Cammy Fraser, and one, Jim Leishman.

Nicholl looked as surprised at the outcome as the rest of media who filed into his office late that night for a meet and greet.

Tommy Burns, Tony Blair, Jimmy Nicholl with the Coca Cola League Cup prior to cup final in November 1994

Tommy Burns, Tony Blair, Jimmy Nicholl with the Coca Cola League Cup prior to cup final in November 1994

‘‘I always wanted to go into management and jumped at the chance of an interview - but there were so many names flying around, I never gave it a second thought,’’ he told the Fife Free Press 25 years ago.

What followed put Nicholl into the club reserved exclusively for legends - and the bond between the two remains as strong as ever.

At Laurie Ellis’ testimonial dinner in 2012 he summed up his years at Stark’s Park as the happiest of his career, and when you consider that includes playing for his country, playing for Manchester United, and going to a World Cup finals, that’s a fantastic tribute to the people at the heart of Stark’s Park and the welcome they offer everyone who steps through their door, and to the town of Kirkcaldy which joined him on a remarkable journey.

What Nicholl achieved with Raith Rovers - promotion, Coca Cola Cup and Europe - will never be matched.

Celtic v Raith Rovers, Coca Cola Cup final. Raith Rovers manager Jimmy Nicholl celebrating his team winning the cup.

Celtic v Raith Rovers, Coca Cola Cup final. Raith Rovers manager Jimmy Nicholl celebrating his team winning the cup.

Maybe one day it will be turned into a stage play or film; a story about an incredible journey packed with drama, emotion and great humour, much of it courtesy of the man who may have been born in Hamilton, Ontario, but is Irish through and through.

Nicholl’s playing career was the stuff of drams.

He enjoyed a long and successful international career, playing for Northern Ireland 73 times, and was a key player in their qualifications for the 1982 World Cup finals.

He enjoyed FA Cup success and almost 200 games with Manchester United before joining Sunderland and then making the transatlantic move to play for Toronto Blizzards.

In 1984 he joined West Brom for three seasons before heading north to Rangers.

Two league championships followed in the next three years before Nicholl joined Dunfermline Athletic - the first stop on a tour of Fife which took in Rovers and Cowdenbeath.

Nicholl is much in demand on the after dinner circuit these days - no surprise to anyone to watched him hold court with a stream of anecdotes from his days at United, playing for his country or the oft-told day they led Bayern Munich. It’s a story he will never tire of telling any more than we’ll tire of hearing it.

Even looking at the famous picture with the Coca Cola Cup on his head never fails to bring a smile to the faces of Raith fans everywhere.

In one interview he looked back on that cup final and what it all meant.

‘People say to me ‘Jimmy, it must have bene great beating Celtic because you were a Rangers man’ - but it wasn’t the thing for me. It was about getting Raith Rovers into Europe.

‘‘I remember saying to Martin Harvey, my assistant, ‘we’re 90 minutes away from Europe here.’

‘‘Then in extra time it was ‘we’re 30 minutes from Europe.’

‘And then it was ‘we’re only a penalty kick away from Europe!

‘‘That was when I let my emotions go.

‘When I thought of those lads who were part-time playerstwo of three years earlier and now were going to Europe to play the ;likes of Bayern Munich ... brilliant.’’

In 2-12 Jimmy was inducted into Raith Rovers’ Hall of Fame.

His Coca Cola heroes were inducted en masse two years later - reunited on stage for one more, never to be forgotten night.

To them he remains the gaffer.

To Raith fans, he’s the man who took them on a journey they will remember for the rest of their lives

>> A version of this article first appeared in the Raith Rovers’ Hall of Fame programme in 2012