The return of Raith Rovers?
Ant and Dec. Tea and Toast. Raith Rovers and John McGlynn.
Somethings are just better together for whatever reason.
Raith have suffered badly for quite a few years now following relegation from the championship under Gary Locke and then John Hughes in 2017.
Many football fans expected Raith to bounce back at the first attempt after they appointed Barry Smith as manager and announced the they were staying full time in a league with mostly part time opposition and Ian McCall’s Ayr looking to provide full time competition.
Overall, Smiths men lost fewer games than eventual league winners Ayr but it was a tale of far too many draws (9 in total) that left them in Ayr’s rear view mirror by a mere point when it really mattered. The disappointment of losing out on automatic promotion led to a hangover in the championship playoffs when they were beaten 4-1 by part time Alloa.
Fast forward to 18/19, surely now as the only full time side in the league Raith’s return would be sealed. However, the familiar tale of too many draws would again seal their fate of failing to return to the championship. 5 draws in the first 10 games of the season sealed Barry Smith’s fate as he left the club to be replaced by John McGlynn – a man who was very successful in his first spell as Raith manager with a win rate of 43% over six years from 2006 to 2012.
The question was: would McGlynn be able to work his magic with Raith again or would they be condemned to yet another few years in the dreaded league one bubble.
Well, McGlynn couldnt have got off to a better start with a 5-1 on his return away to Dumbarton that left many Rovers fans thinking their league one journey would finally end in season 2. Sadly for them, that wasn’t the case as the incredible Arbroath team put together by lower league legend Dick Campbell were simply too far ahead for McGlynn and raith to catch and they ended up winning the league by 10 points.
Another season of playoff disappointment ensued even under McGlynn as rovers fell to playoff final defeat to a Queen of the South side featuring the impressive Lyndon Dykes and the clinical Stephen Dobbie. Not that the season was a complete disappointment as the 3-0 hammering of rivals Dunfermline in the Scottish cup had fans daring the dream that the good times would be returning to Starks park very soon.
This season though, things feel different. McGlynn has Raith sitting at the top of League 1 4 points ahead of big spending Falkirk – the side with all of the expectation considering their financial muscle in comparison to the feast of the teams in the league. Even a bad injury to Lewis Vaughan – one of the best lower league players in Scotland in my book – hasn’t halted their consistency. The side have played some very good football this season and have scored over 3 goals in 6 games so far this season and although they’ve conceded double the goals that Falkirk have their never say die spirit has kept them going even when times have got tough in games.
With only 12 games to go and their destiny in their hands, it would be hard to look past McGlynn taking Raith back to the Championship where they – at the very least – belong. Come what May, the question the return of Raith Rovers? will be answered one way or another but for what it’s worth, I believe that whether it’s automatically or through the playoffs that return is closer now than it ever has been over the last few turbulent years.
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