78. Jim Baxter
Seen by many as Scotland’s most naturally gifted player, skillful midfielder Jim Baxter achieved great domestic success as well as playing a major role in arguably their most famous international result. Born in Fife, his career began with local club Raith Rovers but in was a move to Glasgow to join Rangers in 1960 that really saw his career take off.
During the first of two spells with Rangers, Baxter played a crucial role in the club’s dominance of Scottish club football in the early 1960s. In his first season, the Scottish League title was won along with the League Cup, and Rangers narrowly missed out on European success when they lost the European Cup Winners’ Cup final to Fiorentina. Over the next four years, Baxter would help Rangers to win two more league championships, three Scottish Cups and three more League Cups.
Established in the Scottish national team, he moved south of the border into England in 1965 to join Sunderland, but did not enjoy any great success at club level. Baxter’s finest hour arguably came in 1967, when Scotland faced World Champions England at Wembley. Despite the Scots being massive underdogs, Baxter controlled the game with a magnificent midfield performance, using all kinds of tricks to confuse England. Scotland won 3-2, and their fans proclaimed them as World Champions.
Baxter moved on to Nottingham Forest in 1967, but still was unable to make a great impact on the English domestic game and in 1969 he returned home to Scotland for a second spell with Rangers. Heavy drinking began to take its toll on his fitness and form, and he played his last game for Rangers in December 1969, retiring early in 1970 at the age of just 30. In total he played more than 250 games for Rangers.
Following his retirement, Baxter ran his own pub for a while and his battle with alcohol had an increasingly adverse effect on his health. In his fifties he underwent two liver transplants, but sadly he died of cancer in 2001 at the age of just 61.