April 15, 1967
AS all men know, Scotland is the centre of the universe.
As all men know, it is peopled by the master race.
As all men know, football is the language, the religion, the bounteous gift we bestow upon the world.
We Scots know that Brazil, with five World Cups and Samba style, is a southern suburb of Greenock. Efficient Germany, with a paltry four World Cups, is a far-flung part of the East Neuk of Fife. Real Madrid, with 10 European Cups, are Scots by dint of wearing a close approximation of Ayr United’s kit.
Great football achievements, whether they be by McEusebio, McMaradona or Alexander Pumpherston Gartcosh McPele (to give him his full name) are all Scottish because football belongs to us.
We don’t feel the need to show our mastery of the game very often. But when a challenge to our supremacy is discovered, we swiftly crush the upstart.
So it was in 1967 that the English, for some reason, thought they were world champions (seemingly a wee tournament had been held somewhere a few months previously – we hadn’t heard of it).
Natural order had to be restored.
The thing is, when we give football lessons we don’t just demonstrate the mundane, such as goal-scoring. We show the beauty, the artistry, the sheer glory of the Scottish game. This is no easy task.
It requires a hero, a superman.
Step forward Mr James Curran Baxter, son of this parish, known as Slim Jim and possessed of a left foot that could charm poetry from the sweet mouths of sirens and Bacardis from the sweet barmaids of Govan.
With 10 brave countrymen, Jim was sent to Wembley, a forsaken and uncultured place in those days, to re-establish Scotland’s pre-eminent position in the football pantheon.
That Scotland would win was, of course, never in doubt. But as Jim knew, it isn’t just the winning, it is HOW you win. Slim Jim and his dark blue demigods put on a display that yet lives in the minds of Scotsmen.
Slim Jim toyed with the little folk in the white shirts. He swivelled his hips, sending them hither and yonder. He glided across the grass, drawing gasps of admiration from the lower order of men who faced him. He crafted, he conjured, he bamboozled.
The ritual raced to its inevitable conclusion – a display of left-footed ball-juggling never before seen in that forsaken land nor glimpsed since.
Slim Jim, while restoring Scotland to the summit of Mount Olympus, reminded us of a truth that day. He demonstrated what the word “gallus” means. To be gallus is within us all. We have learned, O Jim known as Slim. We shall never forget. Let all Scots be gallus to the bitter end.
For Jim’s is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.