Saturday May 24, 1997. This should immediately make Kilmarnock fans everywhere smile. The 1-0 win over Falkirk at a sun-drenched Ibrox brought the Ayrshire club their first Scottish Cup triumph since 1929. But it’s not Paul Wright’s 21st-minute sclaffed finish that day that is my over-riding memory of the occasion.
I was only nine and at the game with my mum, dad, uncle and younger brother. Following the main man Paul Wright’s goal, Killie were now holding on in the second half, under pressure from First Division Falkirk.
I remember watching the BBC’s preview show the night before and worrying; as they showed Falkirk’s highlights of knocking out Celtic in the semi-final. Alex Totten, who had been sacked as Kilmarnock manager earlier in the season, was now the Falkirk gaffer and I headed to bed with nerves I had never experienced before; praying that Totten’s Falkirk would not ruin the day.
The man who replaced Totten at Kilmarnock was Bobby Williamson. One of the most significant things Bobby did at Killie was to give two young midfielders their debuts. 19-year-old Alex Burke and 20-year-old David Bagan were the talk of every Killie fan and every young Killie supporter dreamed of being just like them when they were older.
So with Killie 1-0 up everything was going to plan. The game itself was far from a classic and in the dying moments Killie defended for their lives. Yugoslavian goalie Dragoje Lekovic made some great saves, including one fantastic goal-line stop. Then giant centre-half Kevin James, who had caused the Killie defence problems all day, knocked it down to Neil Oliver, whose clean strike beat Lekovic.
My uncle knew before everyone else. He turned to me and said, ‘It’s offside. It’s no gonna count. The linesman’s got his flag up’. And that was it. That was the moment I realised Killie were going to do it. They were going to win the cup!
A team which had been haunted by the threat of relegation were now Scottish Cup winners.