Craig Easton’s under 20s are the pride of Raith Rovers after becoming league champions this week.
The Rovers kids clinched the Development League East title on Tuesday night, with goals from Ryan Stevenson and Andreas Thorsen securing a 2-1 victory over Livingston in front of a sizeable crowd at Stark’s Park.
While the first team are battling to avoid relegation from the Championship after a disappointing campaign, the youth side have enjoyed a season to remember in Easton’s first year at the club.
Despite starting with just three signed players in the summer, Raith’s head of youth development has moulded a tight-knit, title-winning squad, as well as a number of potential first team players of the future.
“The main thing about the development squad is to get guys into the first team,” Easton said.
“The trophy is the icing on the cake, and that comes from working hard individually and as a team, and that’s what they’ve done the whole season.
“I’m just glad they’ve got something to show for their efforts. I couldn’t be more proud and happier for them. “It was also great to see how many people turned up to support them on Tuesday and the boys commented on it after the game.
“These are the things I want them to experience – playing in games where there is a bit of pressure on them – and they handled it really well.
“Thank you so much to everyone who has supported us throughout the season.”
Easton is also involved with the first team on matchdays and was in the dug-out for last night’s crucial match against Hibs at Easter Road, which took place after our print deadline.
He shrugged off the suggestion that the achievements of his youth side could help spur the first team to safety, saying: “I don’t think they need us to inspire them to stay in the league.
“I’ve been in their shoes too many times as a player, but was fortunate enough never to actually experience relegation.
“These last few games will need big performances – the same level we gave against Morton. If we get that, there’s every opportunity we’ll stay in the league.
“It’s difficult and you feel for the boys but they’ve still got two games to keep themselves in the league and that’s motivation enough.”
Easton admits he is unaware of the possible consequences for the development squad should Raith suffer relegation, but is hopeful that he will be able to continue the progress made this season, regardless of which league the club are in next term.
“I’m hopeful everything will run the same way next season and if it does then it’s exciting times because I think we’ve got a really good group of players here that can really kick on and contribute to this football club in the next few years,” he said.
“Getting into the first team next season should be their aim.
‘‘There are boys that have definitely shown me they can handle the pace and tempo and go and push for a spot on the bench at least, and you never know what can happen after that.”
The Raith U20s will aim for a silverware double next Wednesday when they take on Cowdenbeath in the Fife Cup final at Stark’s Park. Kick-off 7.45 p.m.