Jim Menzies – Player 1964-66
We feature Jim ‘Peem’ Menzies who played for Cowdenbeath in the mid-1960’s before emigrating to Canada. Jim was a fine all-round sportsman and in 1959 he won the National Coal Board Cup
at Beath High School as the Senior Sports
Champion. He also won the John Dick Prize for Dux of the School that year.
‘My beginnings were very humble. I was born in the metropolis of Crosshill
in a family with a long tradition in coal mining and I loved to play sports from an early age, particularly football and cricket. My Dad, surprisingly enough, was more interested in cricket than football and was
one of the founding members of Crosshill Cricket Club.
The cost of other sports then was prohibitive.
In fact, supporting a team as a boy meant simply hoping they would win. I
probably only had seen a handful of 'pro' games before I signed with Raith Rovers as a schoolboy. In truth, I was a Lochore Welfare fan.. I loved to watch them
play and was thrilled to play for them as a schoolboy at Beath High School, when I would play for the school in the morning and for Lochore in the afternoon.
This had to be one of the most enjoyable times of my soccer career (along with
my High School times and more than anything, my days on the pitch in Canada.).
At Lochore, I was the local boy and was treated like a king by the people who ran the club. Every game was eagerly anticipated. I couldn’t get enough.
I remember the excitement in the village
when we hosted some of the big guns from the West. (e.g. Kilsyth Rangers). I
was very successful at the Welfare, to the point that I generated a lot of interest with some of the big clubs. I had visitations from Raith Rovers and Dunfermline in my parents’ home and somewhat hastily, in retrospect, signed for Raith without
even playing a trial game.
My recollections of Stark’s Park, generally speaking,
are not good. Communication skills were not the forte of those in charge; the
fun went out of the game for me. I was not psychologically ready for the pro-soccer
environment as it was then. I had the chance to establish myself as a player
but did not take it. I was not mentally tough enough to be truly successful.
I did get the chance to play with Slim Jim Baxter and actually travelled with
him to Killie the night he signed for Rangers. I fondly remember the veteran
Willie McNaught who was a real gentleman and an inspiration for the younger players.
I also recollect future Lisbon Lion Willie Wallace who played on the right wing which was my position in those days,
although I had to play many times on the left wing. I had a pretty nasty knee
injury while playing for the Rovers and had to have immediate surgery. I am playing
soccer to this day and I am still suffering the repercussions of that surgery.
During my time with Raith Rovers, by the way, I was also studying at Edinburgh University, which
probably did not help matters too much. I left Raith after about two and a half
seasons because they basically did not think I was good enough and were willing to release me to St. Johnstone who were willing
to give me a contract for a year.
So, in 1961, I quit University for a year to play full time with the Saints
and their manager Bobby Brown who was later to manage Scotland. This was another bad experience and a most
unhappy time!! Squabbling and infighting plus poor communication was in evidence. I did play in some interesting games v Celtic, Hibs, etc. though. I also got to know ex-Cowden favourite Bobby Gilfillan very well – Gillie was a nice guy
Of course, I also played alongside Alex Ferguson at Muirton. Little did he or I know what his future held. Fergie wasn’t
a great player but he was a very self assured fellow.
The less I say about Bobby Brown the better.
Suffice it to say that after a year playing for him, he did not want me any more.
My experience with Bobby Brown was enough to make me give up soccer altogether and complete my B.Sc. at Edinburgh University.
After not playing for at least a year, Lochore talked me into playing with them
again. This was great fun!!! I played with wee Willie Johnston and we picked
up all kinds of trophies’.
‘In 1964, I married Linda Gronbach, took a teaching job and was persuaded
by the smooth-talking Archie Robertson to sign for Cowden. I had met Linda when
we were both students at Beath High School and we got to know each other through the various social activities.
Linda’s dad, Charlie, joined the Cowdenbeath Board at about the same time. Charlie passed away just a few years ago. He
loved his association with the game and in particular with Cowdenbeath with whom he also played – many, many years ago,
My time with Cowden was a bit of a “roller coaster”
ride. One thing that Archie Robertson could not be accused of was lack of communication. Archie spent more time talking to the players for one game than my previous managers
had spent in total.
I did not always agree with him but I have to respect his hard
work and dedication to success. I, of course, remember all the players from then
such as John Ritchie, Bobby Wilson, Andy Kinnell, Jim Burns, Tom Clark, Roger Sugden, etc.
I fondly remember Andy Rolland (Rollie) with whom I was pretty friendly. A
real Lumphinans “wag”, and the boy who became an instant overnight success, when Archie transformed him from a
somewhat ‘so-so’ forward into one of the original overlapping full backs.
The Cup run of 1965/66 is my most outstanding memory of playing
for Cowdenbeath, particularly as it was so physically demanding. I scored the
winner in extra time v Arbroath at Tannadice before a 6,000 crowd. Especially
disappointing for me was the final defeat by St. Johnstone in the replay at Muirton.
In 1966, the thrill that travel offered took Linda and me off to beautiful British Columbia. I have been involved in soccer in Canada since 1966, both playing and coaching. In fact, I still play and will be taking part in the BC Seniors Games Tournament at
the end of August. I run and coach a Masters’ team (48+) during the winter
and still play, although I have just turned 65.
This has probably been the most exciting and fun soccer I have been involved
in. I played in semi-pro leagues in Western Canada. I
was a member of the Victoria team that won the J.F. Kennedy Cup in Vancouver against teams from the States and Mexico. I played against Chelsea and Newcastle touring teams and also played for the Vancouver Spartans, the precursor of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
As for cricket, I still play the beautiful
game in Victoria and surrounds. I honestly think I was meant to be a cricketer rather
than a soccer player.
Recalling my football career I can’t boast of having played against too
many of the all time greats. Opponents that most impressed me included Bobby
Moncur of Newcastle United plus full backs in Scotland such as John Grant (Hibs), Tommy Gemmell (Celtic), and Davie Holt (Hearts).
I also remember playing in a reserve game for Raith Rovers against Rangers when Willie Henderson made his debut. I think the score was Rangers 8 Raith 0.
Needless to say, he was brilliant. The best teams I played against I would
say were Celtic, Hibs, Hearts, Newcastle, and Chelsea
I didn’t play alongside too many of the great ones. Jim Baxter, of course was one when I was at Raith. Alec Ferguson,
perhaps the most famous. Alfie Conn (former Hearts great of the Souness, Conn, Bauld, Wardhaugh, Urquart forward line.)
was a good one at the end of his career with Raith.
As for the present, both Linda and I have been retired for the past seven years. Linda, from a career in accounting, and me from teaching. We have one daughter, Kirstin, our pride and joy who is 24. She
graduated with a B.Sc. from the University of Victoria and is now in her final year of Law Studies at the University of British Columbia.