Our first guest to take part is Raith Rover fan and Terrace Podcast contributor, Andy Harrow.
Dundee take on Raith Rovers at Starks Park this Tuesday in the Betfred Cup, KO 7:45pm .Read what Andy had to say! To kick off this new feature, as a lifelong Raith Rovers fan, what’s your first memories of supporting the club?
The first game my Dad took me to was the 7-0 victory over St. Mirren on the opening match of the 1992/93 season, but the memory of my second game is more vivid – a 5-0 shellacking to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in the Scottish Cup. Our goalkeeper got injured, which meant tough-tackling central midfielder, Davie Sinclair, spent the majority of the game between the sticks. He was utterly abject. To make matters worse, we had a man sent off and Bobby Williamson scored a hat-trick.
Last season saw Rovers lose their Championship status in the play offs. Did you think the club would be fighting relegation last term?
Not initially, no! We’d finished fourth the previous season and although the appointment of Gary Locke tempered expectations, we should have finished no worse than seventh with the bones of the same squad. After a promising start, our form fell off a cliff and we didn’t win a single game between November and February. By that stage, it was pretty clear we were in serious trouble. The appointment of John Hughes, with hindsight, did nothing to help slow our descent to League One and the play-off defeat to Brechin was as depressing as it was predictable.
John Hughes left almost immediately after your relegation was confirmed and replaced with Barry Smith by a few weeks later. Were you happy with Smith’s appointment and what was the general view of the fans regarding it?
If the reaction to Barry Smith’s appointment could be described in a single gesture, it would be a shrug. He’s not a particularly exciting appointment – he’s not an especially young manager and his recent track record isn’t stellar – but he showed at Dundee he’s capable of galvanising a squad and achieving success, so fans are willing to give him a chance. Plus, he’s neither Gary Locke nor John Hughes, so he’s immediately got that going for him.
Understandably, there has been a good few coming and goings through the doors at Starks Park. Are you happy with the deals that have been done so far?
The most surprising aspect this pre-season is how few new signings we’ve made. The two strikers we’ve brought in –Liam Buchanan and Ramsden’s Cup hero, Greig Spence – look astute transfers, given the number of goals they pilfered in League One last season, while our new centre half, Euan Murray, looks competent. Otherwise, the bulk of the squad from last season have signed on for a shot at redemption. It’s also a big season for our young players to prove themselves, especially Ross Callachan and Lewis Vaughan. Both have offered glimpses of their talent and, assuming we don’t loan either to a league rival in January, it’s a chance to prove they can deliver on a consistent basis.
What’s the aim for Raith Rovers this season in the League?
Promotion as champions. As one of only three full-time clubs (including a shambolic Airdrie), we should be near the top throughout, but our record in the playoffs (no wins, ever) means we need to secure top spot. I can’t see us staying full-time if we spend a second season in League One.
How do you feel the new format of the Betfred League Cup has gone so far?
I like it, actually. It gives each team a few juicy fixtures at the start of the season and last year’s version threw up quite a few surprises (as I’m sure you’ll remember…)
As us Dundee fans know, it can throw up a few cup upsets. With Group B consisting of Dundee Raith, Dundee United, Cowdenbeath and Buckie Thistle, is their potential for a few shocks?
Would Dundee losing to their city neighbours be an upset these days? Otherwise, Raith are probably best placed – we’ve improved as pre-season has progressed and beat Ross County on penalties in this competition last season. Buckie Thistle might beat Cowdenbeath, given how poor the Blue Brazil were last season.
Can you name a player from each team that the opposition should be wary of?
Dundee – it would be just the thing for Craig Wighton to deliver his best ever display at Stark’s Park. Otherwise, I’ve seen footage of the punch Randy Wolters packs, so I’d be a bit wary of him too.
Dundee United – James Keatings once scored a hat-trick at Stark’s and should be a shrewd signing for United.
Cowdenbeath – A Cowdenbeath-supporting friend has suggested Cammy Muirhead. He came through the Fife Academy and scored against Buckie.
Buckie Thistle – I would be lying if I said I knew any of Buckie’s players.
Who do you think will reach the final of the League Cup and eventually win the trophy?
It’s hard to see past Celtic given their form last season and Hearts will be the ceremonial whipping boys in the final.
How do you think Dundee will do in the League this season after struggling last term?
Another season of bottom-six misery, I’m afraid. Hamilton will surely – surely! – be relegated in the automatic berth this season, but Dundee’s squad still looks relatively weak. Admittedly, Scott Allen seems a good signing and a few of the news guys are relative unknown quantities, so it might depend how useful they are.