In the summer of 2004, Raith Rovers welcomed Claude Anelka through their doors after a season which saw the Kirkcaldy club secure their First Division status, with their second last game of the season against Brechin.
Anelka’s appearance in the directors box, started the ball rolling in what could be described as one of the darkest periods in Raith Rovers’ history.
A period that Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton labelled ‘a big mess’ and that it ‘set the club back for years’.
The brother of Nicolas Anelka, Claude, flashed the cash in front of the Raith Rovers board at a time when they were in dire need of investment. Around £200,000 was waved in front of the club in return for Anelka to take over first team affairs as Director of Football and they took the bait so to speak.
As soon as Anelka came in, Spanish player/manager Antonio Calderon announced his departure at the end of the season with his final match being the 1-0 defeat to Ayr United.
That signalled Anelka’s move into management and what a disaster that was – claiming he wanted to make Raith a third force in the Scottish game, the Frenchman signed players from the 7th tier of French football – with majority never actually having played 11-a-side.
At the end of September, Anelka stepped down as manager following no wins in 10 games. The record shows nine defeats and one draw. His tenure saw the fans take to the picket line to demonstrate demanding he left the club. But despite him staying on for a further few weeks as Director of Football, board room disputes intensified which saw Turnbull Hutton quitting as chairman of the club.
Speaking exclusively to Scotzine on the board room disputes and his resignation, Hutton said: “There were various disputes about Anelka coming in, and when we eventually managed to kind of get him moved out of direct football management. We were looking for a manager and we came down to a shortlist of three.
“The board made a decision, the members of the board that were there. Then there were people who weren’t there that then tried to change the decision and there was a rally, there was no point in staying as chairman if the processes that took place at a board meeting were being manipulated.
“There was a split in the board so there were two sides to it. There was one director whose casting vote was used and he wasn’t even at the meeting, you know. It was just a shambles; the whole thing was a shambles, so I was better out of it at that point.”
Anelka eventually departed Kirkcaldy for good in October leaving Raith Rover to clear up the mess. Hutton claims that the Anelka era set the club back for years.
He added: “[It was] a big mess. It probably set the club back four years. It did a lot of damage. It led to the split up of what was left of the board, some wanted out and had to be bought out. Which brought other people in, which again, posed problems because the attempt to reclaim the Rovers, there were promises made about new investors and what have you that made the thing viable.
“But the new investors, when it actually came to delivering the money that had been promised, it didn’t happen. So the thing was under-funded from the start, and as a consequence, we struggled for five or six years trying to get over that under-funding.”
Just two years after resigning a club chairman, Hutton returned to the Kirkcaldy side and hasn’t looked back since. On his return to the club, despite his previous feelings, Hutton said: “I had a bloody big investment in the club and I’d rather sit and look after, you call it an investment, it’s an act of faith more than an investment. I had a lot of shares in the club and it was easier perhaps being inside the tent than outside the tent.”
After Anelka left the club, he issued a statement: “Right at the start I knew things were going wrong. I quickly realised that there was more to the game in Scotland than I thought and I also knew my knowledge of the game was not enough to fulfil my overoptimistic plans. I signed players that I thought were of better quality than the others I already had at the club, but I was wrong. It has been very hard to listen to the abuse and jeering of the fans but it is understandable. I am the first person to realise they love their club with a passion.”
He is rated as one of the worst managers of all time, his tenure at Raith Rovers is a warning to any club that is in dire need of investment.