Saturday 9th May 2009 ko 15.00
Scottish League Division Two
RAITH ROVERS 0
Its the oft uttered line isn’t it? “They’ll be dancing in the streets of Raith tonight!” is often described as “Colemanballs” even if it was the BBC’s Sam Leitch that said the line. Of course Raith Rovers are from Kirkcaldy, Fife. Raith isn’t a specific settlement, it refers to the area between Kirkcaldy and Loch Gelly. But the famous error wasn’t the first time someone called Leitch had an impact on Raith Rovers.
When you visit Stark’s Park chances are you’ll approach along Pratt Street and pass by Beveridge Park. These days its a public park with Kirkcaldy RUFC using a small piece of it, but Raith Rovers moved from there to Stark’s Park in 1891, and became the first Fife club to be elected to the Scottish League in 1902. The ground is named after councillor Robert Stark, who both owned and ran the park when Raith moved there.
The ground is famous for its Archibald Leitch stand. The classic Leitch features are there, such as the pediment and the pitched roof, but this is the only one that was built round a corner of the pitch! You can see why from the photos, Pratt Street cuts off the ground from the half-way line to one corner so Leitch was simply making the best use of the land available.
Behind each goal are two modern cantilevered stands, rather dwarfing the aptly named Railway Stand dating from the 1980’s it was unused save for ballboys and photographers, but now has seating on its southern end. One thing is certain, you’ll never visit a ground quite like this!
Raith Rovers do have the fair share of famous fans. “Rebus” author Ian Rankin is a fan and the club do pop up in the crime novels, and another crime author Val MacDermid sponsors the North Stand. Guy Berryman, bassist with Coldplay is another Raith fan but unquestionably their most famous supporter is former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Now I do tend to take a slightly cynical view of politicians who claim to follow a team, but Gordon Brown’s support is genuine, down even to Ayr United’s programme printing photo of him wincing as “The Honest Men” scoring their winner!
We’d picked a historic game, Raith had won Division Two and were going to be presented with the trophy after the game. I wondered whether the then incumbent Prime Minster would be there. His response was so cynical as to make me smile.
“How many coppers can you see?” he said, I glanced around and counted around 5. “Does that answer your question?” he grimaced. That was me told! Perhaps the weather put him off!
We’d driven to Kirkcaldy through a deluge and I’m quite convinced that the only reason the game took place was because it was the deadest of dead rubbers, and there was a trophy to present. The pitch was the most waterlogged I’ve ever seen a professional game played on and I’ve no doubt that if the game had have been scheduled for any other time it would have been postponed. I’d like to tell you that despite the conditions (I’ve put two videos in I recorded) it was a good game to watch, but it was every inch as dreadful as the footage would suggest.
But the game got played, and Raith got to lift the trophy in front of their fans. We got to visit a wonderful stadium, and surprise our friend Jim in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary afterwards.
So what happened next? Its worth commenting that a major reason why Raith Rovers were in Division Two was down to Claude Anelka. in 2005 Nicolas’ brother had offered any club £300,000 if they’d make him manager. Raith Rovers took the gamble, and despite Anelka lasting only half a season the club were relegated with a horrifying 16 points.
From this 2009 promotion Raith spent until 2017 at the second-tier. After relegation they spent until this last truncated season when they won the Scottish League One on PPG. Add to that a 2004 Challenge Cup win in 2014 and you’d hope that the good times have returned to Kirkcaldy.