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Raith Rovers
Internationalists

In his second superbly authoritative contribution to our project, John Litster, historian of all things Raith Rovers, profiles the players who have represented not only  the Stark's Park club but also their country.

 

It is an interesting list, a veritable hall of fame if you will, which includes both a Wembley Wizard and a Lisbon Lion, not to mention the man who scored one of Scotland's most memorable ever World Cup goals.

 

We hope the names will stimulate memories and discussion.

David Morris

Raith Rovers Internationalists
00:00 / 09:42

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Raith Rovers

Internationalists

 Our guest writer this month sees the welcome return of a man who is simply the embodiment of Kirkcaldy's senior football club. John Litster was born in Kirkcaldy, leaving as an infant when his father was transferred to Glasgow by Michael Nairn & Co. John returned to the Lang Toun in 1984, initially to work for Alma Confectionery.

 

John is a fourth generation  Raith Rover's supporter but he is far more than that. John has written five books on the club and his publication Always Next Season  remains the magnum opus and bible on the Club's history. Following the publication of Object 8, where John charted the history of the club, it was always the intention to follow up with an article on the players who had  not only worn the club's shirt but that of their Country!

 

If ever the time was right – it seems that time is now. There are new owners, there are substantial  alterations taking place to the ground, there are planning applications in place for further building works, a new league season is in the offing with no little optimism and the  men's Scottish International team is on a successful run.

 

While we can look to the future, let us take a little time to look into the past at the list of those who can be termed Raith Rover's internationals, courtesy of a man who has been a supporter, programme editor, director and club historian.

 

“Raith Rovers footballers “capped” by their country fall into three broad categories; those who were selected for their full international teams after they left Stark’s Park, those who signed for the club some time after making their last appearance for their country, and the seven players awarded full international caps while they were in the service of the Kirkcaldy club.

 

The first of that select band was Harry Anderson, left half in the only Rovers team to reach a Scottish Cup Final, which they lost 2-0 to Falkirk in 1913. Ten months later he played for Scotland against Wales in a 0-0 draw at Celtic Park. 

 

Only ten international matches – but eight war-torn years - separated Rovers’ first two capped players as Kirkcaldy-born Bill Collier, also at left half, won his only cap in a 2-1 defeat by Wales in Wrexham in February 1922.  

 

Rovers’ third internationalist was not long in arriving,  when a year later,  Collier’s half back colleague and captain Dave Morris won the first of his six Scotland caps.   He remains the club’s most-capped Scot, and captained his country to the 1925 Home International championship.

 

The club was not represented at International level again until October 1950, when Willie McNaught won the first of his five caps.  Slightly built, the Dumfries-born defender was quick off the mark, even quicker in anticipation, and possessed a wand of a left foot.   He spent 21 years as a player, and holds the record for appearances.

 

Stevie Crawford, scorer of the opening goal in the 1994 Scottish League Cup Final, was in possession of a winner’s medal from that fixture and the First Division Championship, when he was selected for the Kirin Cup tournament in Japan at the end of the 1994/95 season.    He replaced Darren Jackson after 62 minutes against Ecuador in the second game, to become the fifth – and latest – Raith Rovers player to play for Scotland.

 

The club’s most capped footballer is Marvin Andrews who won 103 caps for Trinidad and Tobago, 22 of them while at Stark’s Park.   That surpassed the 19 caps won by his fellow countryman Tony Rougier, who arrived at Raith Rovers in March 1995. 

 

An eighth internationalist was added during 2021/22 season when Frankie Musonda played for Zambia in friendly matches against Congo Brazzaville and Guinea.   Born in Bedford, the defender arrived at Stark’s Park in August 2020 after two years with Luton Town, mostly spent on loan at non-league clubs.

 

Two of Scotland’s all-time greatest players started their senior careers at Raith Rovers, before going on to star for top clubs, and the Scottish international team.

 

The waif-like figure of Alex James was plucked from Ashfield Juniors in May 1922 and propelled straight into Rovers’ First Division side.  He won four caps with Preston North End, who he joined in 1925, including the Wembley Wizards match when Scotland won 5-1.  Herbert Chapman signed him for Arsenal in June 1929 and he was their star man in winning four League championships in five years, and two FA Cups.  James was capped four more times while at Highbury, where many rated him the best player in the world.

 

Rangers’ fans thought that accolade applied to Jim Baxter in his first four years at Ibrox.  Born in Forth Park, he was signed by Rovers from Crossgates Primrose in July 1957.  His Under 23 appearance against Wales in February 1958 was the club’s only contribution to that age group.   He commanded the second highest transfer fee between Scots clubs when he moved to Rangers in 1960, where he won three League Championships, Four League Cups and three Scottish Cups.

 

The first of his 34 Scotland appearances was in November 1960, just over four months after leaving Raith Rovers.   He finished his career aged 30 back at Rangers after spells with Sunderland and Nottingham Forest.   In 1963, he and Denis Law played for the FIFA World Select against England at Wembley in the match to commemorate the Football Association’s Centenary.

 

Other notable former Rovers players who subsequently played for Scotland are Lisbon Lion Willie Wallace (7 caps with Hearts and Celtic), Kirkcaldy-born Colin Cameron, capped 28 times for Scotland while with Hearts and Wolves and John Walker, who arrived in Kirkcaldy from Maryhill Juniors in October 1903 and won nine caps while playing for Southern League Swindon Town.

 

The inter-war years saw Scotland appearances by former Rovers Sandy Archibald, John “Tokey” Duncan and David Kinnear.   After the war, East Fife winger Davie Duncan won 3 caps and much later Keith Wright (one cap), Paul Hartley (25) and David Bates (4).

 

Inevitably, as successful careers draw to a close, clubs such as Raith Rovers are willing to make use of the experience, guile, and surviving skills of former internationalists.

 

The first former Scotland player at the club was Harry Marshall (in 1900/01), previously with St Bernards, Blackburn Rovers and Hearts who won two Scotland caps (and twice won the Scottish Cup) during a four year spell at Celtic.  Ronnie Orr, Tom Niblo, George Wilson and Archie Devine were capped before the First World War with Tommy Miller, Bob Bennie, Willie Imrie, Bob McAuley, Alex Low, Alex Venters and Frank O’Connell after it.

 

Post Second World War came Eddie Rutherford, Neil Mochan, Alfie Conn, Ian Gardiner, Jimmy Murray, John Grant, Bobby Evans, Ralph Brand, Johnny MacLeod, Bobby Robinson, David Narey, Jim McInally, David Bowman, Derek Ferguson, Andy Walker, Scott Robertson, David Goodwillie, Jonnie Russell, Barrie McKay, Kevin Nisbet and Christophe Berra.

 

The Raith Rovers international connection is not confined to appearances for Scotland.   League Cup winning manager Jimmy Nicholl won 73 caps for Northern Ireland, and George O’Boyle played 13 times for them.  Other future Rovers capped for their country were Rudi Skacel (Czech Republic), Willie Furtado (Cape Verde) and the fondly remembered Joe Baker (nine caps for England), who was one of the 40 players from whom Alf Ramsey selected his 1966 World Cup squad, just six years before joining Rovers”.

 

By definition this short narrative can only give a brief outline of those who have worn international jerseys. The full narrative which expands on the players, their stories and also enhanced by photographs and newspaper snippets, is reached from the icon on this page. It is well worth a visit.

 

We can only conclude by once again thanking John for another masterful and authoritative piece on the Club which means so much to so many in Kirkcaldy and beyond.

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