JOHN Baird decided the time was right to leave Raith Rovers after hearing there would be further cut backs next season.
The 26-year-old striker rejected the offer of a one-year contract extension at Stark’s Park to sign for first division rivals Dundee this week.
Baird, who scored 28 goals in two years at the Kirkcaldy club, admitted that Rovers’ decision to revert to a mixed full-time and part-time set-up helped make up his mind.
“I’m sad to leave, but I feel it’s the right time for me to move on,” Baird told the Press.
“The two years I’ve had here have been brilliant, but with more cut-backs coming, I just feel the club is going in a different direction.
“I’d love to see Raith back up at the top end of the table competing – and they are more than capable of it – but the cuts will obviously make that more difficult.
“I wish them all the best, but I’m really excited about my new challenge at Dundee.
“Dens Park always has the biggest crowds in the league, and when they visited Stark’s Park their away fans made a lot of noise.
“I had other offers but my gut instinct was telling me to go to Dundee.”
Baird spent last week on holiday with his now former Rovers team mate, Brian Graham, before informing manager John McGlynn upon his return that he was moving on.
“The manager made me the best offer he could after the last game of the season – which I was grateful for,” Baird said.
“I knew I was going away on holiday for a week with big Brian so I told him I would get back to him when we got back.
“I was thinking things over, but I knew deep down that I’d played my last game for Raith, so I told the gaffer on Sunday that I wouldn’t be renewing my contract.
“I still didn’t know who I was signing for as I had a couple of offers, but I didn’t want to leave Raith hanging when they could be going out trying to sign a replacement.
“I was getting asked a lot of questions about my future by fans on Twitter, but I wanted to give John McGlynn his place so he was the first person I told.”
Baird’s first season at Raith started with a hat-trick in his league debut against Partick Thistle and finished with him winning the PFA First Division Player of the Year award as the club narrowly missed out on promotion to the SPL.
The past year has proved tougher, but Baird again stood out, scoring crucial goals along the way, none more so than in the 3-1 win over Queen of the South that secured the team’s first division survival on the second last day of the campaign.
Baird reflected: “That first league game at Stark’s Park when I scored my hat-trick was a great day – and one of my best memories from the club.
“My grandad was in the crowd that day, so it meant a lot to me. It was also a great way to get off the mark at a new team.
“Funnily enough, my last game at Stark’s Park, staying up against Queen of the South, will be another great memory from my time here.
“Nobody celebrated the fact that we finished second the year before, but upstairs in the lounge after the Queen’s game fans were buying us bottles of champagne as if we’d won the league.
“It was a great feeling to stay up because the pressure of relegation is 10 times worse than going for promotion.
“The weeks go by faster when you’re winning games and going for a league title, but this past season has been really slow.”
Baird has been inundated with messages of support from Raith fans on Twitter but he knows that a goal for Dundee at Stark’s Park might change the tune.
“It will be strange going back to Stark’s Park next season, but I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“Maybe the Raith fans will boo me, but I hope not!”