Friday, 29 July 2011

SFL Division One 2011/12 fan preview: Raith Rovers

Click here or read below for my preview of the 2011/12 season for Raith Rovers. It was published on the STV website.

Raith Rovers

Describe last season in one word? 
Overachievement. A season long battle for promotion to the SPL was the last thing any Rovers fan expected before the start of last season. It was a truly remarkable campaign and one that will live long in the memory.

Who do you think will win your division? 
There is only one First Division side who have significantly strengthened over the summer and that is Ross County. Despite flirting with the relegation playoff spot last season, the Highlanders had a talented squad but suffered from a chronic lack of confidence. Over the last few months they have added the required experience and skill to form what is now an extremely competitive twenty-four man squad.

Who do you think will be relegated? 
The First Division will only contain one part-time team this season and that is Ayr United. The playoff winners may have signed Gareth Wardlaw after his release from SPL side St. Mirren, but on paper their squad is not good enough to stay up.

How do you rate your own manager?
John McGlynn has turned Raith Rovers around, the Kirkcaldy club was once a disorganised shambles. McGlynn has demanded that the players and staff be treated with the highest respect by doing simple tasks such as cleaning and repainting the decrepit dressing rooms. On the pitch, McGlynn has used the contacts he gained at Hearts when he was first team coach to bring in high quality signings, whether that be on free transfers or on loan. He has guided Rovers back to their natural position from the depths of despair and although he does appear a bit tactically naïve he has done a phenomenal job.

How do you rate the business he’s done this summer?
McGlynn's budget has been severed this summer so he was always going to struggle bringing in quality replacements for the fifteen that left at the end of last season. Joe Hamill arrives from Livingston and Brian Graham rejected a contract from Morton to come to Raith. They are decent, if not unspectacular signings and should do a job for Rovers. Signing on loan is Stephen Reynolds, a St. Johnstone youth striker who will offer competition up front for Graham and John Baird. Considering McGlynn's previous loan signings of David Goodwillie and Johnny Russell, there are high hopes that Reynolds will become a star too.

Who do you think will be the surprise package from your team this season?
After years of disputes with the fans over his captaincy, rash tackling and poor distribution this could be the year that Iain Davidson really steps up and drives the team forward. After the devastation of severe budget cuts and waving goodbye to teammates, local lad Davidson might just be the link in the chain to keep this group of players battling on.

Who is the cult hero at your club? 
With his tendency to trip over his own feet, clip the ball over the bar from just two yards out and occasionally score a wonder goal, Gregory Tade was the cult hero last season. However, with Tade's departure to Inverness the new cult hero should be David McGurn. The Rovers goalkeeper is labelled by many as 'The Witch' for his physics defying saves.

Who has been the best signing of the transfer window in your division? 
There has not been many stellar signings this summer due to the desperate lack of money at First Division clubs, but the signing of Colin McMenamin at Ross County should be one of the best. He may not be a twenty-goals-a-season striker, but his intelligent play will create just as many goals and he scores.

Which opposition player do your fans love to hate? 
Dundee goalkeeper Rab Douglas is always on the receiving end of incessant abuse, probably just because he is still a top, top goalkeeper despite his age and fitness issues. This season however, Stephen Simmons is likely to be the fans biggest target. He was a victim of Rovers budget cuts in the summer and has since signed for Queen of the South. Simmons was often criticised by the Starks Park faithful for being lazy and disinterested.

Which opposition player would you love to have in your team? 
Although the Raith defence is fairly sturdy at the moment, Rhys Weston would be a magnificent capture for any First Division and most SPL clubs. The former Welsh international reads the game better than anyone else at this level and not only can he win the ball in the air, but he is also good at sweeping up on the ground.

Finally, where do you think you will finish this season? 
It is very hard to put a specific position on where Rovers will end up this season because it is expected to be one of the most, if not the most, competitive First Division ever. However, I would hope for Raith to finish above Ayr, Livingston and Morton, so if the team can stay injury free, seventh place should not be beyond Rovers. 

written by Will Lyon 

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