Jim Baxter: Dave Parnaby’s Appreciation

Pete Sixsmith provides the introduction to today’s guest:

Dave Parnaby is a Kelloe lad who started following Sunderland in the 1960s. He was a very good player himself, turning out with distinction for Gateshead, Barrow and er, Shildon Sunderland Supporters, among others.

He was Head of PE at Spennymoor Comprehensive School where his coaching abilities led to him being appointed manager of the England Schools FA Under 15 team, the top job in that organisation. His success came to the notice of Middlesbrough FC and he was persuaded to leave teaching and become their Academy Director.

The rest, as they say, is history as he supervised the progress of players like Stewart Downing, Ben Gibson and our own Lee Cattermole and Charlie Wyke. He remains a Sunderland supporter – once bitten by this club, it’s impossible to get rid of that love for it.

14th April 2019

The game of football has given me so much reward and enjoyment throughout my life so I thought it was about time I paid respect to the person who helped me fall in love with the game.

My football hero was ‘Jim Baxter’.

As a youngster I was a fanatical Sunderland fan and in 1965 I was absolutely blown away when I heard The Great Jim Baxter was going to sign for Sunderland. Throughout his time at the club he could do no wrong in my eyes. It was Baxter who ignited my ‘love of the game’.

So on Sunday 14th April 2019 my good friend Peter Davies and myself set off on a pilgrimage to visit ‘The Hill of Beath’, Baxter’s birthplace. On the anniversary of his death we would lay a wreath at the foot of his life-size statue situated just outside ‘The Legion Club’ in the village.

Jim Baxter died on 14th April 2001.

We had a wonderful day.

The statue was magnificent – ‘Slim Jim’ in an elegant pose with the ball attached to that wand of a left foot, head up looking in complete control of the situation as always!

We had the privilege of being invited into the lounge of The Legion where we sat and listened to Rab and Moira Aitken, residents of the village, tell us stories about ‘Slim Jim’ and his family history. Moira was actually a cousin of his mother. Rab laid the bricks on the monument. They were so proud of ‘Baxter’.

The walls of the lounge were decorated with framed shirts of players from the home club of Hawthorn and three famous, professional players who were born and bred in the village i.e. Willie Cunningham (record number of appearances for Preston North End), Scott Brown of Celtic and of course ‘Jim Baxter’.

They informed us the statue cost £85.000 and how everyone in the village played their part in fund raising events to cover the costs.

Rab Aitken

Rab told a nice story about a sportsman’s dinner organised to raise funds. Willie Henderson and Jimmy Johnson were guests. Rab told us Jimmy Johnson never left the club for three days!

The whole day at ‘The Hill of Beath’ was very special.

R.I.P. ‘Slim Jim’ and thank you.

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England v Scotland extract posted on Youtube by TT99 Football, Dec 2015. If there is any copyright claim on the video, not answered by”fair comment” please let us now and we will remove or acknowldge as requested. Photos ©Dave Parnaby.

5 thoughts on “Jim Baxter: Dave Parnaby’s Appreciation”

  1. Sunderland 4- Sheffield United 1, Baxter’s home League debut was stunning, capped by two goals of technical perfection.

  2. At his best, IMO, Jim Baxter was the best British player of his generation – and maybe of all time. He had the ability to simply dominate the game, and made other players look ordinary.

    I saw him play for Rangers at Highbury, against Red Star Belgrade, and he was just in a different class to every other player on the park. He made the game look simple in a way that I have never seen in any other player.

    Unfortunately, like some other special players [ Best, Gazza, Bowles etc ] his life style was incompatible with a top class athlete, and he faded badly in his later years.

    Had he played today, with the expectation and dedication that is demanded of young athletes, he would have been a superstar – he would have earned a fortune, and he would have played well into his late thirties, injuries permitting.

    He was some player, and in terms of sheer ability, he is up there with the very best.

  3. Along with Johnny Crossan, he and Jim Baxter still are my all-time favourite players and not just in the red and white. Thanks for the article.

  4. Many thanks for that. He was one of my favourite players too,despite his ‘baggage’.Stories about his drinking are legend but the one in Black Catalogue’ shows that it didn’t always affect his performance on the pitch.

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