The Great Slim “Jim Baxter”

Many people will have heard of the great Slim Jim Baxter alias “Bacardi Jim”. I played for the British Army team against Aberdeen at Pittodrie ” Bacardi Jim” was the captain of that team, the officer in charge of our team although I wasn’t aware of it  at the time, must’ve thought that I hadn’t played as well as I could have. When the game was over Jim and I were  summoned to the Hotel bar to meet up with the army chief we were going to discuss the team and our performances and how the match had gone.

When we met this officer chap, it was fairly obvious to me that he was disappointed about something. What could it be I wondered! After the introductions, he went straight to the point and asked me and I quote “are you a blood relative of John White the Army, Spurs and Scottish International football player?”.

To say that I was upset was an understatement, I was mad, angry and more to the point very, very close to hitting this officer on the nose. We beat Aberdeen and whether each and every one of us in the team had played to their best was immaterial the result was the most important thing.

Had I smacked this guy I would’ve been in serious trouble, striking an army officer is probably the worst thing that a soldier can do. Jim must have been aware of the situation and of my anger he simply ushered us out of the bar in a very casual manner, our meeting and conversation had lasted the length of the first question. I never spoke to Jim about his reasons for getting me out of the hotel bar so quickly maybe he new how insulted I had been, and had only taken me out to save me any further embarrassment. Thanks Jim you, saved me from smacking the officer and from being sent to jail.

I was fortunate to start at Raith the same night as Jim, what a player a truly gifted man. Jim was a very young lad he would’ve been eighteen like me, his mentor at Raith was Willie McNaught a truly magnificent centre half. It was Willie who advised him to join Rangers, Jim would’ve been unsure about moving to Rangers, not because he didn’t want to join them, but because he found it easier to play in the Raith team, more comfortable, young players like him need to be made to move step up to the plate, ambition is paramount, the opportunity can pass you by very easily.

I remember I played for Raith at “Kilmarnock” once with Jim. I had a serious kind of streak in me but that’s not to say that Jim was not serious about his game. But what I found out about these gifted players was that there were times when they thought that other things were more important to them than what ordinary footballers thought. Gazza is a prime example, probably the most gifted player of all time.

This particular game I was on the half-way line at Killie, our Jim was on the left wing, not very far from me. I shouted to him to slip “the ball” inside to me, it wouldn’t have mattered who had shouted he wasn’t going to pass the ball. He put “the ball” through this Killie players leg “nutmegged him”. Okay we’ve now moved on another ten to fifteen yards down the pitch, I politely asked him again to pass the ball inside to me, no chance again he’s “nutmegged” another Killie player. What can I say we’re now nearing the eighteen yard line, I thought should I ask him again, inside, inside, I thought it was a good idea for me but Jim wasn’t on my wave length.

I think that maybe I should clarify that statement, I wasn’t on Jim’s wave length. There was another Killie player closing in on him, he had to work a little bit harder this time, I thought about shouting but decided to “keep quiet” Jim “nutmegged” the third Killie player.

Unfortunately for us, Jim had a wry smile on his face as he run the ball over the Kilmarnock dead ball line. He was chuckling away to himself, it had been a great effort, individuality at it’s very best. This time Bacardi Jim had done what he had set out to do, unfortunately no end result for Raith but simply the best feeling for Jim Baxter.

I was blessed to have played with Jim and my mates at Raith.

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