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Football: BIG LEISH IS A FIFE SAVER; Fans must appreciate Mr Pars.


EVERY club in the country probably has one. A character who only needs "Mister" and his club's name to identify him.

A legend, a local hero, an icon who'll forever be part of the fabric. In short, a synonym for your club.

John Greig. Mr Rangers. Jim McLean, Mr Dundee United. If he was still around Jock Stein would be Mr Celtic. Closely followed by Billy McNeill maybe. Alex Totten, Mr Falkirk, without a shadow.

Somehow Mr Dunf ermline just isn't enough for Jim Leishman though. Even "Sir" Dunf ermline wouldn't quite cut it.

Because while every club might have a Mister to its name NO-ONE else in Britain has a Leish.

Say what you like about him - and many people have - the guy is unique.

And that's why, even as a Falkirk fan, I'll be grinning from ear to ear as Leish leads his side out at Hampden on March 19 for the CIS Cup Final. Never has one man done so much over the course of nearly 40 years to earn a single day in the sun.

Sure, he's achieved plenty in the past, dragging up the Pars by their bootstraps from the bottom of the Second Division to the top flight, winning titles on the way.

And his rescue mission to keep them in the SPL last season when they looked doomed with three games left is the stuff of legend.

But this one day will mean more to Jim than any of that - and he deserves to bask in every second of it because what he does for the club goes beyond management.

Take this month as an example.

January's usually a bombsite for club finances. The post-Christmas cash pinch means fans stay away and football suffers.

And with two rounds of the Cup scheduled there's a chance you could go through the month with one home game to get by on. Aberdeen only played their first home game of the year yesterday.

So what does Leish do? Hosts six Burns Suppers on the bounce at East End Park, gets top speakers in for nothing, persuades local businesses to book up for four of them and fans to fill the other two.

And makes 60 GRAND for his club - the equivalent of 3,000 punters paying at the gate and enough to pay a decent player's wage for a whole season.

Then there are the spin-offs. Two years ago businessman Bob Purvis was trapped at one of these Burns Suppers. Another Lochgelly man made good. Never a huge football man, just a Jim Leishman man.

Now his name is on the Pars' shirts and was seen on national TV on Wednesday night - and will be again on March 19.

On top of that, Purvis also pays the wages of the Pars' chief scout through a sponsorship.

Name me another manager in the country who actually MAKES money for his club like that? Didn't think so.

But it's grossly unfair comment on Leish's abilities just to concentrate on what he does off the park.

Yes, he's been a figure of fun. Larger than life, which is usually a euphemism for volume over talent.

He's even had balloons made in his honour round Falkirk way. He's never claimed to be a tactical genius and deep down regrets never allowing himself to be taken seriously - all the poetry stuff and daft Fifer image.

But the bottom line is you don't drag teams from where Dunfermline were in 1983 to where they are these days by simply being a character.

Football dressing-rooms are unforgiving places - they'd never let you away with that.

But Leish has taken his side to Parkhead and won, then a semi-final and helped lead them through to glory.

So whatever quality it is people think he doesn't have the one he DOES have above all else is the power to inspire.

And yet bigger and bigger chunks of the Pars support seem to think they could do better in the dugout?

It's time they started appreciating what they have a bit more. Wednesday night was a classic example.

I know it's January, money's tight and the tie was live on the box.

But it was a Cup semi for Christ's sake. One step from Hampden. Then you look at the crowd and wonder.

Surely if their manager is capable of bursting a gut in January to keep their club alive and kicking it's not too much to ask that the fans do the same?


Leishman: Tireless work
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 29, 2006
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