Many of you will know that my football team is Raith Rovers. We’re not the most fashionable or successful of clubs and indeed since 1988 when I first started going along (as a result of my best mate playing the first of what would be more than 300 games in nine years) the Rovers have spent only three seasons in the top flight of Scottish football. There’s also been cup wins in that period while the 95/96 season unbelievably saw us qualify for European football where, after beating teams from the Faroe Islands and Iceland, we came against the might of Bayern Munich and lost 4-1 over the two legs…but with the memory of talking a 1-0 lead into half time at the game over in the Olympic Stadium in Munich. Bayern, incidentally, went on to win the UEFA Cup that season with Rovers being the team that got the best aggregate score in any round.
But as any true football or indeed sports fan knows, winning isn’t the be all and end all. It’s about going along, enjoying a good day out with mates and cheering your team on through thick and thin, and hopefully seeing your team play well and giving you a sense of satisfaction and pleasure. There’s been loads of such times watching the Rovers all these years but as you can imagine there’s also been some really lousy, frustrating and boring days out too.
The season ended just 48 hours ago. The team lost a play-off match in their efforts to get back to the top league for the first time since 1997. I wasn’t at the game as I had a long-standing commitment to look after some friends from Ireland who were visiting Glasgow for the very first time – friends who have over the years done so much for me and my family in the wake of my brother’s death some six years ago. Some things are more important than football (but not many!!)
The fact we were in the play-offs was a huge surprise. In a ten-team league, we had probably the 8th biggest budget and so were expected to be fighting things at the bottom. Over 36 games, we put together a more than decent record which saw us rack up 18 wins and 8 draws and finish miles ahead of the teams in 5th place and below. The significance of that achievement was that it clinched a play-off place and a chance, over up to six games, to go up. As I said, that dream is over but what it did do was give all of us a chance to dream. It also provided some amazing memories that will last forever (especially as they can be relived nowadays on YouTube etc).
All this was done by a team that was largely put together over the course of a season by a manager/coach who only joined us this time last year. Ray McKinnon has done a great job and it’s no surprise that other clubs would be interested in having him at their helm. It just so happens that the club he grew up supporting, Dundee United, have had a miserable season having been relegated and their chairman sees Ray as the answer to their problems.
The news today is that Raith Rovers, despite wanting to keep our manager who is under contract, have agreed to given Ray permission to speak to Dundee United and indeed have already agreed a suitable compensation package. It’s only a matter of time before the Rovers are back looking for a new manager…..
It’s a sad feeling but one which one day, given the over-achievement of the past season, was likely to happen at some point or another. All of which gives me the opportunity to post up a wonderful pop song which, after all, is the supposed point of this blog:-
mp3 : The Lemonheads – It’s A Shame About Ray
Good luck in the new job gaffer. No doubt you’ll get a decent reception when you bring your team to Stark’s Park for two league games next season.