Born August 4, 1964; Died April 12, 2011.

RONNIE Coyle, who has died aged 46 of leukaemia, was a footballer who began his career at Celtic but who made a name for himself with Raith Rovers and played a significant part in the 1994 League Cup run that ended with the Kirkcaldy team beating the Glasgow outfit in a memorable final.

As a schoolboy at St Gerard’s Secondary, in Glasgow, he lived for football and dreamed of the day he would don the famous Celtic hoops. He was good enough to win Scotland Under-15 schoolboy honours in 1980 and was, along with Paul McStay, with whom he struck up a life-long friendship during these school days, John Robertson, John Sludden and Ally Dick, one of the stars of the Scotland team which beat England 5-4 in a memorable televised schools match that year.

He was also playing alongside McStay for Celtic Boys Club, so it was no surprise when he moved on to the Celtic staff. But his hopes of matching the prodigy McStay’s deeds for the club were to be unfulfilled.

He made a couple of first team appearances, making his debut in a 0-1 loss to Dundee at Celtic Park on May 4, 1985, before making his second and last appearance in a 2-4 loss to Dundee United at Tannadice on January 4, 1986. But, after a loan spell with Clyde, he was released and went to England, to join Middlesbrough, before moving on to Rochdale.

He returned to Scotland in the summer of 1988. Frank Connor, his mentor at Celtic Park, was now manager at Raith and he brought Coyle home. He had found his place and over the next eight years he donned Rovers’ blue shirt more than 250 times, forming an excellent central defensive partnership at Stark’s Park with Shaun Dennis.

Coyle made his Raith debut on the opening day of the 1988-89 season, in a 1-3 defeat at St Johnstone. He scored the first of his nine goals for the club in a 3-0 win over Clydebank towards the end of that season as things began to look up for the club.

Twice he helped the Fifers win the First Division title, but, although he played his part in the team getting there, he missed the high spot of his years in Kirkcaldy, the 1994 League Cup Final win over his boyhood heroes Celtic.

An Achilles tendon injury consigned him to the Ibrox stand for that game, which must have been a difficult one for him to watch – the drama of the 120 minutes of play, then the added tension of the penalty shoot-out, during which his great friend McStay, now Celtic’s captain, saw his penalty saved by Scott Thomson, before Rovers triumphed to kick-off a memorable celebration back in the Kingdom.

That victory earned Raith a crack at Europe and the Uefa Cup. Coyle was not going to miss out this time. They were beaten 2–0 by German side Bayern Munich in the first leg, which was played at Hibs’ Easter Road ground. In the second leg they led 1–0 at half time against all odds, before eventually losing 2–1.

From Raith Rovers he moved to Ayr United, signing for the Honest Men in March 1996 before making his debut in a 2-2 draw with Stirling Albion the next day. The following season was in his only full season at Somerset Park and during it he was a key player as the Honest Men won the Second Division title, playing in 30 of their 36 league fixtures.

From Ayr he moved on to finish his career in the bottom flight of senior Scottish football, firstly with Albion Rovers, then East Fife and finally Queen’s Park.

In retirement Raith’s place in his heart was such that, when the club faced closure in 2005, he flung his weight behind the Reclaim the Rovers campaign and took part in the fund-raising effort with a marathon walk which helped keep the club alive.

But in 2009 he collapsed at home and was diagnosed with leukaemia. He battled the disease with all the passion he had shown on the park. In March 2010 he received an emotional returning hero’s welcome when he was able to take in a Raith game at Stark’s Park, but he and his family accepted his case was hopeless. His death came just over two weeks after an emotional benefit game for him, at Stark’s Park, brought together most of the players from that 1994 League Cup Final.

Paul McStay even made the long trip from Australia to pay tribute to his old friend, while other former team mates travelled from all parts of the UK to honour their friend.

Ronnie Coyle was a good if not great player. He fulfilled a childhood ambition when he played in the Celtic first team; he played in three famous matches – that 5-4 Wembley victory and the two Uefa Cup clashes with Bayern and represented Scotland at youth level.

But what really won him admiration from the football public was his courageous but ultimately unsuccessful, battle leukaemia.

Ronnie Coyle is survived by his wife Joan and their three children, Kevin, Briony and Georgia.