John McGlynn won’t let grass grow under his feet as he prepares himself for a third assault of the SFL1 title but he can relax a little having been named manager of the year after last year’s efforts. The club have been in the First Division for only two seasons but in each year have been mentioned during that season as possible promotion contenders so the work done there by McGlynn and his backroom staff is not to be sniffed at.
Raith Rovers had many tongues wagging when they released so many at the end of the season. At the last count there were 15 axed. During the season they had been noted as a club that played within their means financially. The Chairman and the manager pointed to the loss of Dunfermline when they eventually spoke out as financially a challenge due to the loss of at least two derbies in the year. These are always keenly fought but incredibly well attended ties. When both are within a whisker of the title and one game is the third last of the season you can see why Raith will miss em! The Chairman noted that Queen of the South had been so strapped for cash a bull had been auctioned for them – could Raith top that!? The reality however was that with even that amount gone McGlynn still had a fairly strong squad – even if he claimed it only numbered only 8 signed players! He has, of course added to the squad.
There are two goalkeepers on the books in David McGurn and Ross Laidlaw. One of the casualties of the clearout was goalkeeper Andy McNeil though his regular place in the line up had already gone for the last game of the season to David McGurn. One supposes that McGlynn was looking to the future there.
In defence Raith stalwart and a player who came back from personal tragedy this year, Mark Campbell went along with Craig Wilson, Graham Weir, Kevin Brown, Craig Wedderburn and Craig Wilson. This leaves him with Laurie Ellis, Grant Murray, Dougie Hill, Willie Dyer, Colin Wilson and Iain Davidson if needed. In amongst them there are some seasoned campaigners and again the future is being looked at as well as a cut in the cost of the playing squad.
The midfield releases include Stephen Simmons, youngster Graeme Beveridge, Mark Ferry, Jordan McKechnie and Jamie Stewart. Captain Grant Murray has signed on for another two years which is seen as a significant boost as Murray was a mainstay of the previous campaign. Another two year deal has been dragged out the drawer for new signing Joe Hammil. The former Heart, Leicester and Livingston player is a very useful addition to the squad. They join Allan walker, Andy Walls, David Low and Ross Callachan with Scott McBride and Reece Donaldson available too. The additions to the squad have certainly added quality to the midfield. In a long campaign the question always asked is whether it has enough depth.
Up front Raith released Gregory Tade, Tam Graham, Jamie MacKie and Gary Wales. There is a lot of experience going from that line up! McGlynn has added the former Morton top scorer, Brian Graham alongside Iain Williamson and John Baird. Raith fans will be hoping that there will be another face or two as Tade will be a big loss and the fact SPL clubs have been mentioned as a potential future employer shows how well thought of he is.
This is the season that Raith may either show their ability to compete long term near the top of the First Division until eventually they clamber back into the SPL or the cutbacks hit and they slide down the league. The evidence of the last twos seasons suggest that McGlynn has come into his own as a manager and will have Raith up there competing with the rest. I believe that McGlynn will steer them to a top five finish but their usual flying start will need to happen to ensure them of that. If they struggle at the beginning it could be a very long season…