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A lovely view, but Rae wants higher ground

THE view at Palmerston continues to change in front of David Rae's eyes.

David Rae has been a fixture at Palmerston since his first match in 1948, when he was just 11 years old. Picture: SNS
David Rae has been a fixture at Palmerston since his first match in 1948, when he was just 11 years old. Picture: SNS

Since his first match in 1948 at age 11 he has looked on from the sidelines and seen floodlights erected at the Dumfries ground, a new stand put up, a Hollywood film crew take five, and an artificial pitch rolled out. This panorama has also taken him from the old terracing which once skirted the east edge of the pitch to the directors' box in the main stand, once as chairman and now as honorary director and majority shareholder. Rae might yet return next season to see Queen of the South in Scotland's top division.

It is an image which remains far enough away that it can only be squinted at. Queens host Falkirk tonight in the first leg of a play-off which could lead either side into the SPFL Premiership, although the winner of the tie must still play first Hamilton Academical and then a team from the top flight before achieving promotion. Such a prospect might appear adventitious to Queens given that they finished 11 points behind Falkirk in the table but it has inspired a focus among a squad which might otherwise have little to play for as summer approaches.

Retirement and a step back from club affairs have allowed Rae's attention to wander a little, coming to rest yesterday on recollections of the last time he watched his team play in Scotland's top division. His memories have not been faded by time; the 77-year-old can list the starting XI dubbed the Beautiful South - it comprised erstwhile Scotland internationalist Billy Houliston - that excelled in the old First Division during the 1950s and tells anecdotes of up until the club's last season in the top flight in 1963/64.

"What I recall right away was the great side we had when we played in the top league," said Rae, who championed the introduction of a promotion play-off to the top division during his stewardship of the Dumfries club. "It really was a terrific team. Early on in the '50s we were top of the First Division in Scotland - which is equivalent to the Premiership now - and we were top until nearly Christmas.

"I can remember one day we were playing the Hearts at Palmerston [in 1956] and we were down 3-1 at half-time. We ended up beating them 4-3. Jim Paterson scored with a few minutes to go, they equalised with a penalty kick and then Walter Rothera scored the winner in the last minute of the game."

Rae awaits the highlights of tonight's match with bright anticipation. He handles with care the question of how Queens will manage in the play-offs - striker Gavin Reilly suffered ankle ligament damage on Saturday and Stephen McKenna is also missing - but he will be gripped just like any fan. "Getting promotion will be hard, it will be difficult . . . but it is a possibility," he added.

And it could all happen right in front of his very eyes.

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