In an open and honest exclusive interview with Scotzine, Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton admitted that the club’s realistic goal for the new season is to finish in the top half of the division rather than challenge for the title.
Hutton said: “I would think being realistic with the budget we have and the current turmoil there is in Scottish football, I would like to be in the fourth, fifth, sixth in the First and it would be nice again to have a cup run. Now, who knows, we may start off. We didn’t plan to be chasing promotion a couple of years ago, it just kind of happened, so if it happens – great, but I certainly don’t want to be fighting relegation, I could do without that.”
Looking over the four divisions in the Scottish game this season, the First Division was seen as the only competitive league in the senior game and has been for a number of years. And what is the secret to its competitiveness? When asked if the lack of finances has played a pivotal role in the league being competitive, Hutton agreed.
He added: “Yeah, I think that’s probably true, everybody’s skint. The First Division has always been tight, occasionally there’s a team that’ll run away with it, but even when that happens, they’re always competitive games, even when Ross County ran away with it, every game against Ross County was a tight affair.”
With free scoring Second Division champions Queen of the South returning to the First Division next season, Hutton is of the opinion that the Doonhamers will do ‘bloody well’ in the league this coming season despite the loss of top scorer Nicky Clark to Rangers.
He continued: “Well, yeah, they signed [Iain Russell]…. a goalscorer to effectively replace him. When Queen of the South got relegated, we beat them at Stark’s Park to relegate them, two seasons ago, but Queen of the South, even then, I didn’t think were relegation material and it came as no surprise to me that they took it on the chin, got their wagons in a circle and stormed that division.
“That momentum that they have and the results they had last year I would expect Queen of the South to be doing bloody well in the First Division this year, they aren’t going to be down there at the bottom. They’re in a better position than we are, we’re dismantling and trying to rebuild a team, they’ve essentially got a team.
“Okay, they’ve lost their main striker, but the rest of the guys are all performing well and putting their shift in. We saw that in the Ramsdens cup against Thistle, you know. I would think Queen are going to do well this year, I’d expect them to be in the top half of the table.”
And the Raith chairman was full of praise for Doonhamers manager Allan Johnstone, in his debut season as manager, he said: “Aye, he’s done remarkably well, he’s got Sandy Clark there, who’s been around the course a few times, but they seem to get their style of play sorted out. They had good attacking wingers the previous season, and they added a bit of pace. Allan Johnson was insistent on playing football on the ground and they did well, good on them.
“That’s one of the great away trips for us is going down to Dumfries because somehow or other, it’s just a proper football club with a recognisable proper football ground and nice people, it’s good going down there.”
On who would be challenging for the First Division crown and trying to stave off relegation this coming season, Hutton said: “You’d have to think that Dundee are going to be up there fighting for the championship, that’s their game plan, and depending on who they get, I see they’ve lost John Baird, but they’ll attract, being the size of the club they are, they’ll attract the good players.
“So I would imagine Dundee are going to up there right from the off and then you’ve got to look at Falkirk are never far away, Livingston did quite well last year. We started well and finished well, but were dying in between. Then you’ve got to look at Dumbarton, they did bloody well from where they were with five points at Christmastime and Ian Murray did a phenomenal job down there. They’re a part-time club, they were up for every game. We got humped down there, we beat them the second time, but the first time down there they ran rings around us. Cowdenbeath have done well, Queens are coming up, that’s going to be interesting.
“Again, the First Division, it’s wide open, it starts off wide open and it really depends on how can string five or six results together and what happened with Thistle this year, Thistle got a good run going and they started to believe in themselves. That’s the big incentive in the First Division, if you start to believe that you can win the games you do well. Ross County did it, they got a run going and even when they were behind in a game, somehow or other they always managed to get something out of the game and we’ve seen that time after time in the first that the team that can get about half a dozen results back to back invariably kick on from there. If you have a bad start and don’t get off the starting blocks you can struggle.”