WILLIE PENMAN played most of his football in Fife, the kingdom that, in the middle of the twentieth century, laid fair claim to the title of the leading Scottish exponent of the beautiful game.

One could call on evidence for that claim from the 19,600 spectators who attended the Scottish Cup tie between Raith Rovers and the eventual winners, East Fife, in 1938. In that same year, during the course of a surge for promotion, Raith Rovers ran up a total of 142 league goals which could never be surpassed.

More evidence? Three of the first four League Cup finals were contested by Fife clubs. In one instance, two Fife clubs played each other for the title.

East Fife were winners on all their three visits to Hampden and they remain the only multiple winner of the competition never to have lost a final.

Moving on to 1957, we see a completed league table with Raith Rovers in fourth place, ahead of Celtic, Aberdeen and Dundee. But, if East Fife won trophies, Raith Rovers were, by common consent, the more elegant team.

Willie Penman, from strange beginnings, had imposed himself as a Rovers first-team regularwho was very nearly a Scottish Cup medal winner.

In the 1951 semi-final against Celtic he had tied up the score at 2-2 with 10 minutes to go, only to see Charlie Tully bring the ball under control and shoot at goal.

There was no way back.

Penman began to play seriously at a time when football had almost shut down on account of the war. Cowdenbeath put up the shutters with unseemly haste but the other three Fife sides showed a welcome desire to carry on.

Penman announced his arrival on the fields of the North Eastern League with a flourish, scoring seven goals in nine matches. He would always be a heavy scorer despite frequent and serious injuries. His 211 goals from 328 first-team appearances is a record which is unlikely to be surpassed.

Why, then, was he not chosen to play at international level?

Why was he born to blush comparatively unseen? Perhaps it was because he lacked the grace of Willie Bauld. Willie Penman was an old-fashioned centre-forward who believed that defences were there to be harassed and harassed again.

Perhaps he had seen the dismal treatment dished out to his contemporary, Henry Morris, of East Fife, whose melancholy record was caps one, goals three, then dropped.

Penman was a predator and had the priceless gift of expecting defences to make errors. He was tall and rangy and well served by his colleagues. He could miss more than half the season and still end up with a total of 20 or more goals. In the 1948-49 season, he scored 54 goals, of which 35 were league goals.

Raith's trouble had been the recurring necessity to sell on their best players to England.

Between 1945 and 1960, however, there was an exception. The Kirkcaldy half-back line of Young, McNaught and Leigh lasted the better part of 10 years and the club, for once, had stability and was able to plan.

Up front, Bernie Kelly was a lavish goal scorer and Johnny Maule a regression almost to the days of the Scotch professors.

Bert Herdman worked miracles as a player left every year. Still, even that was better than in the pre-war years and it was possible to get around three years of play out of a young player before England called him irresistibly.

However incredible it may seem in these more mercenary days, Willie Penman was content with his lot. He liked his native Kirkcaldy and expressed no desire to leave.

In this, he followed the example of his great captain, Willie McNaught, who also lived out his days at the ground which he had so long adorned.