ALMOST 30 years of instilling football skills, discipline and respect in the young people of Bute drew to a close on Saturday with the retirement of highly-regarded coach Jim Ross.
Jim’s current and former charges, together with parents, grandparents, friends and members of Jim’s own family gathered at Kingarth Hotel to say thank you for his efforts over the years.
Jim’s coaching clinics began at the Moat Centre in Rothesay in 1982, and several members of his very first class were present on Saturday, along with a number of the adults who attended his (non-footballing) keep fit classes at the same venue.
Among those who paid tribute was Andy Kelly, who was head teacher at the Southpark residential school in Ascog when Jim’s coaching sessions began.
“Jim was a great supporter of what we were doing, and he organised fund-raising five-a-side competitions involving locals and ex-professionals such as George Shearer and Eric Caldow, who both played for Rangers and Scotland,” Andy told the gathering.
“His work with the younger generation has been of enormous benefit to the young people, parents and wider community of Bute.
“He insisted upon good discipline, behaviour and respect for each other, as well as the sheer enjoyment of the beautiful game, and he has been a positive influence on the life of hundreds of young people.”
Ian Cameron gave a personal recollection of life as a Jim Ross pupil, including memories of the three overseas trips - to Canada in 1998, Denmark in 2000 and Greece in 2001 - on which Jim’s young charges flew the flag for Bute on and off the football pitch with great distinction.
“I had my first coaching session with Jim when I was six years old,” Ian recalled, “and it was very simple:
he told me that if I wanted to be a footballer, all I needed was a tennis ball and a wall.
“I was mesmerised by his enthusiasm. From that moment I was hooked on Jim’s every word. He has sound footballing principles which he instils in all the children he coaches, and his coaching ability is second to none.”
Jim’s coaching classes will be taken over by a former pupil, Stewart Hill, who furthered his footballing education in the USA after leaving Bute and who said it would be “an honour and a privilege” to follow in his footsteps - while Jim’s lifelong friend, scout Bobby Dinnie, also paid warm tributes.
Jim himself said: “I’m just gobsmacked at the people who have turned up to show their thanks for what I’ve tried to do - I just don’t know how to say thanks.
“All of you have been absolutely fantastic to me over the years, and I’ll never, ever forget that. I really can’t thank you enough.”