Football fans say thanks to Jim

FOOTBALL followers on Bute will almost universally acknowledge that there are few who do more to foster the love of the island's young people for 'the beautiful game' than Jim Ross.

And Jim's 24 years of football coaching on Bute were given official recognition this week at a reception in his honour at Kingarth Hotel.

Friday's reception, organised by Argyll and Bute Council, was attended by many of Jim's current and former pupils and their families, and several of his footballing friends from Bute and beyond - among them legendary talent scout Bobby Dinnie, former South Park School headmaster Andy Kelly and St Johnstone FC's youth development co-ordinator Tommy Campbell.

So highly does the council think of him, in fact, that island councillor and football (well, Hearts) fan Robert Macintyre presented Jim with a beautiful quaich as a permanent memento of the night and a lasting thank you for his work.

The night began with presentations to several of Jim's highest-flying students, among them Morton's Jim McAlister, Scotland U19 regular Jane Ross, Rothesay Brandane player of the year Gary McGregor and two youngsters who have just signed contracts with senior clubs, St Johnstone's Stephen Reynolds and Troy McKerrell of East Stirlingshire.

Andy Kelly recalled how he and Jim had started up an indoor football coaching clinic at the Moat Centre back in 1982, while Tommy Campbell spoke of his approach to developing promising youth players at St Johnstone prior to a coaching session back in Rothesay on Saturday morning.

Robert Macintyre told the assembled company a little bit of the Jim Ross life story, of his playing career with Ayr United and Partick Thistle, of how he met his wife Margaret while she was working part-time as a waitress in a Glasgow caf, and of how the couple moved to Bute in 1974 to work for the Bute Estate before Jim gained his coaching qualifications and set out on helping others enjoy the sport he's always loved.

Bobby Dinnie, meanwhile, spoke of the high regard in which Jim is held by many esteemed figures in Scottish football coaching and of his own life as a coach and talent scout, most recently with Partick Thistle, who have tempted him out of semi-retirement and appointed him the club's new chief scout.

But the last word on the night could only go to Jim himself, and memories of his own playing days were followed by mention of some of the high points of his Bute coaching career - most notably the three trips overseas by Bute Soccer Club, to Canada, Denmark and Greece, when Jim's teams of island youngsters won many friends with their skills on the football pitch and their discipline off it.

Said Jim: "I get great pleasure out of telling people about the success of the likes of Jim, Jane, Stephen and Troy.

"Thanks, everyone, for your support - I really appreciate it."