Fife football legend Jim Baxter led England a merry dance at Wembley in 1967 when his keepie-uppy exhibition became the stuff of legend.
England might have won the World Cup but Baxter showed them how to play football.
Scotland won the match 3-2 on April 15 1967 but Baxter admitted it could quite easily have been 13-2 in a forgotten memoir published in 1984.
“Why didn’t we bury the English under an avalanche of goals?” he said.
“We could have done, oh yes. No bother. But the choice was ours.
“By that, I mean the choice was down to Bremner, Law and myself.
“Naturally, I’ve had lots of arguments since, with people who didn’t like the way we took the mickey. I don’t think they understood, I really don’t.
“A team and a country can forget big scores against them.
“Such things can happen, if one side has an off-day and the other a good day, or if there’s an unusual element of luck.
“Our aim was to show England how easily we could beat them. We wanted to give them no excuses.
“We wanted the Scottish punters to laugh at the English as well as to enthuse over victory. Which is exactly what happened.
“Deliberately, we kept the game on a razor’s edge, staying that wee bit ahead on goals, stroking the ball about, everything designed to indicate that, if we felt like it, we would score a few more.”
Life and times
The son of a Fife miner, Baxter grew up in Hill of Beath, where his talent was first spotted by Crossgates Primrose scout Willie Butchart.
Primrose signed Slim Jim for just 50 shillings and he went on to play for Raith Rovers as the prelude to a glittering career with Rangers and Scotland.
The diamond dribbler won games single-handedly and his Beatles-style haircut, good looks and weakness for the good life added to the adulation.
Baxter signed for Sunderland in 1965 for £80,000 and he was still playing in England when he put Alf Ramsey’s World Cup winners to the sword in 1967.
The real driving force behind that Scotland victory was the determination of the team to prove to the world it could easily have been Scotland who won the World Cup.
Scotland were unlucky not to make those World Cup Finals in England after being drawn in an extremely tough qualifying group along with Italy, Poland and Finland.
Although Scotland defeated Italy 1-0 at Hampden, they lost 3-0 in Italy because the team was decimated by injuries for that return tie in Naples in 1965.
Scotland were 4/1 underdogs and England were on a 19-game unbeaten run.
England — Banks; Cohen, Wilson; Stiles, J Charlton, Moore; Ball, Greaves, B Charlton, Hurst, Peters.
Scotland — Simpson; Gemmell, McCreadie; Greig, McKinnon, Baxter; Wallace, Bremner, McCalliog, Law, Lennox.
Scotland had three debutants.
Celtic goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson collected his first cap at the age of 36 and 20-year-old Jim McCalliog of Sheffield Wednesday was picked to play in midfield.
It was also manager Bobby Brown’s first game in charge, although in those days the boss did little other than select the side.
What a start he had.
Scotland didn’t just beat England, they dominated from start to finish.
Denis Law, Bobby Lennox and Jim McCalliog were on target for the Scots, with Jack Charlton and Geoff Hurst scoring in reply.
Baxter summed up the style of the triumph by taking time to stop and juggle the ball during the heat of battle.
Scotland were by far the superior team and he didn’t want anyone to forget it.
Baxter addressed this in his 1984 memoir.
“Alan Ball kept on confusing my shins with the ball,” he wrote.
“He was running about, demented, like a fart in a bottle.
“Billy Bremner had told us before the match that Alan was nicknamed Jimmy Clitheroe, because of his high, squeaky voice.
“Billy had also told us that it was a nickname greatly resented.
“So, naturally, that’s what we shouted to him, throughout the match.
“He wasn’t the only Englishman to go daft that day – Jackie Charlton wasn’t in the best of moods either, and Nobby Stiles, minus those front teeth, looked as if he could cheerfully have killed us all.
“But only Ball kept on kicking. Maybe Bremner shouldn’t have asked him: ‘D’you think you’ll be a player, when your voice breaks?’
“In the second-half when we had established beyond reasonable doubt that we could win, I indulged in keepie-uppy, thereby enraging the English even more.
“Now and again one of us would put a foot on the ball, then walk away from it as if we were bored with the whole affair.
“Of course, we knew that a team-mate would get there first.”
The fans were jubilant at time up and a number couldn’t resist celebrating on the pitch.
Baxter and his Scotland team-mates went to the Café Royal in London after the match, before being invited to a backstage theatre party in the West End where big-name guests included stand-up comedian Frankie Howerd and singer Cilla Black.
“Cilla Black, whom I never rated much as a singer, started to patronise us, in that Scouse accent of hers,” recalled Baxter in his memoir.
“It was the ‘Jock’ and ‘haggis’ bit, and she even had the nerve to suggest that Scotland had been lucky to win at Wembley.
“That was too much for Billy Bremner. First, he compared her very unfavourably with Dusty Springfield. Then he expressed astonishment that Cilla, with such a face, had ever managed to get into showbiz at all.”
Unsurprisingly the players left the club shortly after the Bremner critique!
What became of Slim Jim after his Wembley heroics?
A record £100,000 move to Nottingham Forest followed in December 1967, where Baxter’s form deserted him as his fitness and commitment were questioned.
He made only 50 outings for Forest in two-and-a-half years and it was Rangers who stepped in to take him back to Scotland.
A year later, released by the Ibrox giants, he retired from playing at the age of 30 and successfully applied for a public house licence.
Slim Jim’s honours all came during his first spell with Rangers when he won three Scottish league championships (1960-61, 1962-63 and 1963-64), three Scottish cups in a row (1962-64) and four League cups (1960-61, 1961-62, 1963-64 and 1964-65).
Baxter appeared a total of 34 times for Scotland, scoring three goals, and also represented the Rest of the World in the Football Association’s centenary match against England at Wembley in 1963.
However, Baxter’s hard living took its toll, and in July 1994 he had two liver transplants in four days at the Scottish Liver Transplant Unit at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
In January 2001, Baxter was diagnosed with cancer and spent a month in hospital before returning to his home on the south side of Glasgow.
Baxter died aged 61 and the party was finally over.
For many, many Scots, a bit of our collective soul died with the man who delighted our hearts with his effortless talent.
Nobody proved more conclusively that brain will always beat brawn than Slim Jim.
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