27 years have passed since Raith Rovers shocked Celtic on penalties to lift the Scottish League Cup – but Jason Dair’s memories of that special night in front of 45,000 supporters at Ibrox remain fresh in his mind.
It was a final many Hoops fans would rather forget, but for the Kirkcaldy outfit, an occasion that etched their name into the Scottish football history books an earned them the right to qualify for European football where they would go on to play Bayern Munich over two legs.
Coca-Cola were the competition’s main sponsor back in 1994 and Dair recalls the moment a gobsmacked fresh faced 20-year-old was told he would be pitched in from the start.
“It was a big decision for the manager”
He stated: “I remember we stayed over in a hotel the night before and the moment our manager, Jimmy Nicholl, told Colin Cameron, Stevie Crawford and myself that we were all starting the game in the middle of the park.
“We were the younger guys in the team, so it was a big decision for the manager to make but a great thing for us, knowing he had a lot of trust in us.
“We had a strong team but were still massive underdogs against a Celtic side that were full of internationals and huge favourites to win the cup.
“We won the old First Division the previous year then got relegated and were back in the Championship and not doing too well at the time.
“I’m pretty sure Celtic were going through a sticky spell at that stage as well, I don’t think they had won anything for a wee while, so this game was a huge opportunity for them to lift some silverware.”
Stevie Crawford has given the Fifers an early 19th minute lead but Celtic looked to have won the game in normal time when Andy Walker equaliser and Charlie Nicholas fired the Hoops in front.
“The pressure of stepping up to take a penalty during the shootout wasn’t too bad”
However, with just four minutes remaining Dair’s effort was parried away by Marshall into the path of Gordon Dalziel who tapped home from close range.
Dair, the nephew of Rangers legend Jim Baxter, said: “We just went out and played our game and luckily Jimmy’s decision to include me in the side was the right one.
“I didn’t really get nervous on the pitch when I was playing, so personally, the pressure of stepping up to take a penalty during the shootout wasn’t too bad.
“I’ve got some vague memories of either a steward or supervisor telling us no matter what happened, we had to stay in the centre circle.
“My penalty wasn’t the best but I just managed to sneak it under Gordon Marshall and when our keeper Scott Thomson saved the last one from Paul McStay, I remember everyone going crazy, running off in different directions.
“After winning the cup, we went on an unbeaten run and actually won the league that year as well.
Dair believes the build up to tonight Premier Sports Cup quarter-final tie somewhat mirrors the 1994 final and has tipped the current Raith Rovers side to pose a significant threat to Ange Postecoglou’s men.
He admitted: “I think tonight’s game will be similar to when we played Celtic in 94’.
“Raith have got a strong team at the moment and Celtic are going through a bit of a transitional spell, with Rangers being dominant side in Scottish football just now.
“Celtic will still be expected to win, so the build up to this game is pretty similar to what we experienced.
“I’ve not had the chance to watch Raith so far this season, but I came across them during my time at Dunfermline.
“John McGlynn and Paul Smith have worked wonders there. They’ve done a great job and all credit to them. They’ve been playing some great football.
“It will be a big challenge for them going to Parkhead in front of a large crowd but I’m sure they’ll be fired up for it and hopefully they can cause Celtic some problems.”
1994 Scottish League Final Line-Ups:
Raith Rovers (3-5-2): Scott Thomson, Steven McAnespie, Julian Broddle, David Narey, Shaun Dennis, David Sinclair, Stevie Crawford, Gordon Dalziel (C), Ally Graham, Colin Cameron, Jason Dair
Subs: Brian Potter, Jason Rowbotham, Ian Redford
Manager: Jimmy Nicholl
Celtic (3-4-1-2): Gordon Marshall, Mike Galloway, Tom Boyd, Mark McNally, Tony Mowbray, Brian O’Neil, Simon Donnelly, Paul McStay (C), Charlie Nicholas, Andy Walker, John Collins
Subs: Pat Bonner, Paul Byrne, Willie Falconer
Manager: Tommy Burns