“Surely unthinkable for the skipper to miss…”

Raith v Celtic, Ronnie Coyle benefit match, Stark's Park
A day to remember in Kirkcaldy

“… And he doesn’t!

“Celtic have won the Coca-Cola Cup!”

Doesn’t really have the same ring to it does it?

But even the staunchest Raith supporter would not begrudge Paul McStay his penalty spot revenge over Scott Thomson in the Ronnie Coyle benefit match at Stark’s Park today that featured some of the players from the famous Coca-Cola Cup final of 1994 and an array of other fan favourites.

The former Celtic captain flew over 10,000 miles from Australia to show his support for his old mucker Coyle, a family man who is battling leukemia at the age of 46. And McStay made sure his penalty, in a shoot-out that followed a 3-3 draw, found the net this time round.

It was this kind of good-natured camaraderie, between fans (all 2729 of them) and ex-players on both teams, which made the occasion one to remember.

So often testimonial matches are paint-dryingly boring affairs, with tubby middle-aged men huffing and puffing and prodding away pre-arranged goals and faded superstars smugly soaking up the adulation.

While this game was hardly a footballing spectacle, it was quite refreshing to go to a match that wasn’t a win-at-all-costs, bile-strewn slugfest.

Today was about the human stories behind the game, about the great personalities and unbelievable glory days that have graced the Kirkcaldy club, and ultimately it was about showing respect and empathy for a loyal servant to the Rovers and a thoroughly decent man.

Some people say that benefit matches are meaningless fundraisers, but this was so much more. It was an example of how football, a game so often taken far too seriously at the top level, can actually make a real difference to people’s lives.

And since we’re on the subject of 27th November 1994, any excuse…

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