Testing, Testing

July 30, 2008

(I’m just fiddling about here – I’m checking how readily I can import postings from the other blog).
The undernoted posting first featured on the other blog on 20 February 2006 under the heading

The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 1


For roughly ten years from about 1988 onwards, I contributed a number of articles to the best football fanzine around, viz: – The Absolute Game.
Here is an example (from TAG 20, October 1990)- more will follow if there is sufficient interest.

The Forgotten Ones – No 7 – Jim Baxter

Picture the scene. The Main Door at Ibrox Stadium at 2pm on a match day circa 1971. Yours truly, a scruffy, spotty schoolboy hanging about outside hoping for a glimpse of the stars. The portals open and the Rangers reserves emerge to board the luxury team coach to travel the short distance to an away game against Clyde at Shawfield. Lagging behind the rest comes a tall, dark-haired individual equipped with the expensive florid complexion and beer-gut of the seasoned drinker. He reaches into his tatty old duffle bag and produces a pair of heavily mud-encrusted boots and proceeds to ‘clean’ them by battering them off the hallowed red-sandstone building.

This was Jim Baxter towards the end of his second spell with Rangers. Despite his world-wide fame and celebrity he still had time for a few words with me and the othere wee urchins who were staring at him in awe. These few words were “Get oot the f***ing road boys“.

Something of my youthful innocence died that day.

Jim Baxter was God when Eric Clapton was still an apprentice cherub trying to figure out how BB King could bend those notes. It’s a cliche to say that Slim Jim had everything required of a great Scottish footballer. Outrageously skilled, totally irresponsible, supremely arrogant and thick as mince. Yup, he had it all. Even the fact that he featured in a successful Rangers team did not prevent him being universally admired (ie in the other end of the city as well), mainly due to his glittering performances in the national team. Jim getting both goals in the victory over England at Wembley in ‘63. Jim making monkeys out of the aristocratic Italians at Hampden in ‘65. Jim returning to London to rub the ‘World Champions’ noses in the dirt of Wembley ‘67.

Great moments all.

I become quite light-headed when I hear Billy Bremner telling the story of Jim parading up and down the dressing room before the Italian game saying, “Rivera? Rivera? Ah’ll Rivera ‘im when we get oot there”. And, of course, Jim did totally outshine Gianni Rivera, the biggest Italian superstar of his day.

Where did it all go wrong? A broken leg, a transfer away from Rangers to Sunderland, and the usual cocktail of alcohol, horses, women and Chinese take-aways did for Jim. These elements were merely aggravated by his well-known reluctance to do anything energetic, like turn up for training. His eventual return to Rangers was more in the nature of retirement to an Eventide home than a second coming. The only apt comparison between Baxter, Wembley ‘67 and Baxter, Shawfield ‘71, would be with Elvis, Memphis ‘55 and Elvis, Las Vegas ‘77. The name was the same, but the man himself was simply a parody of his former greatness. Premature retirement at the age of 30 beckoned, as by that time, in his own inimitable words, “I was getting beat by guys I wouldnae have sh*t on 10 years earlier”.

After his retirement Jim set the trend for some present day Ibrox stalwarts to follow by having some unfortunate brushes with the criminal courts. He also trod the well-used path of becoming a publican with himself as his best and most regular customer. Nowadays he occasionally makes the odd TV or radio appearance to reminisce about the old days, when he was, in Ian Archer’s phrase, “the greatest Scottish football show on earth“.

It is of course not strictly accurate to include Jim in the ‘forgotten ones’ series. For those of us fortunate to witness it, his performance at Wembley ‘67 will never be forgotten. Expecting another player like him to emerge in Scotland is as fruitful an exercise as waiting for the new Beatles. We are condemned to a footballing diet of Jive Bunnies. After each fresh humiliation for Roxburgh’s boys, why don’t you dig out the video of Jim playing keepie-uppie against Ramsay’s Robots. He did then what every Scottish boy who has ever lived has wanted to do.

The greatest player that I ever saw? Probably. The greatest player that ever told me to get oot the f***ing road? Definitely.

Footnote – Jim Baxter died, aged 61, in 2001, after having been in very poor health for a long time, principally due to alcohol abuse

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7 Responses to “Testing, Testing”


  1. Thanks for reminding of Jim Baxter. I never was much interested in Rangers, but some of their players were characters.

  2. Fern Cake Says:

    I actually once did a pilot TV show at the BBC, a forerunner to ‘Offside’, when the participants were the former full strength Tam Cowan, a not so ‘Slim Jim’, and myself.

    I managed to blag a video copy, and on watching me sandwiched between these two behemoths, my mother’s only comment was ‘ach, ye looked as good as any o’ them son…’. Well, thank the Lord for that, Maw…..

    Seriously, Baxter was some player, and as I discovered that afternoon a helluva nice guy.

  3. David Cobb Says:

    Hope a mass importation from AHM is possible – far too much good stuff to be lost. (Did I just say something complimentary?!!?)

  4. Ron Brinsdon Says:

    Found this via some “Lone Groover” and “Tony Benyon” searches.

    Not a big footy fan anymore but love reading biogs/autobiogs of my own “Golden Era” of players from say 63 to 83.

    Loved the tone, humour and nostalgia of the Jim Baxter piece, would like to read more of same.

    Best wishes, Ron

  5. almax Says:

    Ron

    Welcome

    There was quite a lot of football stuff on my old blog – I’ll be importing a lot of it here in due course, but at the moment I’m mired in trying to buy a new house in another town and don’t have much time to spend here – you might like to check back in a month or two to see what’s happening

  6. TheInformer Says:

    get the finger oot man!

  7. McQueenie Says:

    The Absolute Game was majestic.

    Very much missed.


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