On stage, Gordon Strachan’s knack for story-telling has got the place on toast. Around him, a dressing room-load of players past and present are chipping in with anecdotes that rock the rafters.
And I’m sitting there in the middle of it all, thinking: “This is Kirkcaldy. On a crappy Monday in November.
And people say football’s dying?”
Well, let me tell you. While there are occasions like this, the night Raith Rovers launched their Hall Of Fame, football will live and breath and it will grow stronger.
But as I’ve written a million times, all the game’s more crippling problems started when somebody, somewhere decided it should BE a business first and a sport a distant second.
When you take those grey men out of the mix, when you forget about market shares and bottom lines, when you remember that goals and glory are the real profit and loss — that’s when the glow returns.
On Monday night in Kirkcaldy, money was never mentioned.
Well, except when they showed an old video of Jim Baxter telling how he bought his mammy a washing machine with his first signing-on fee.
Because this was about passion, about heritage, about fans and players and backroom staff feeling part of a one big family. This was about honouring those who make our bedrock clubs the community hubs they’ve always been.
Most of all, though, this was about laughter. We laughed until our jaws were sore. Ex-players digging each other up with stories from the adventures that were their career, little Strachan sending up his own love-hate relationship with Fergie, Jim Leishman wandering on from nowhere in his Provost’s chain and a Dunfermline scarf with a daft grin, milking the panto boos.
It was all, quite simply, wonderful. As MC, I’ll take responsibility for the fact it all ran an hour over schedule, yet it still seemed to fly by in a heartbeat. The kind of do where you wake yourself up chuckling in the night. If your own club doesn’t have a Hall Of Fame, you really should volunteer to start one — and it doesn’t matter whether they’ve ever produced a Scotland legend like Baxter or won a shedload of trophies. The
thing to remember is that whether you support Glasgow Rangers or Berwick Rangers, the men who pulled on that shirt through the ages are all special.
There are guys inducted on Monday night whose names wouldn’t register with anyone but the anorakiest of anoraks
outside Stark’s Park. But to those who worship there, they are heroes, legends, inspirations. To old team-
mates, they are comrades, drinking buddies, guys who share a bond that can’t be broken.
Or who led Bayern at half-time in the Olympic Stadium the next season. There are five million people in this
country, but only 20-odd can say they were part of those amazing achievements.
They were there on Monday — manager Jimmy Nicholl, striker Gordon Dalziel, midfielder Peter Hetherston,
defender Jock McStay, all much more at ease ripping each other to bits than if you’d asked them to big
themselves up. Well, apart from Dalziel, but every team needs a Shyness.
he son and daughter of 50s skipper Willie McNaught — never booked in 647 appearances — spoke proudly of their
late dad as they accepted a trophy on his behalf. The widow of all-time club record goalscorer Willie Penman
wept at the very thought that so many felt so much for her man. And we shed a wee tear with her.
Then you had the likes of big Billy and his Old Firm oppos like Stein and Johnson. None of them ever played for
Raith Rovers, but they wouldn’t have missed an occasion like this for the world.