New Raith boss quick off the Mark with first signing

Raith striker Mark Stewart promotes season tickets after signing a new two-year contract. Pic: George McLuskie
Raith striker Mark Stewart promotes season tickets after signing a new two-year contract. Pic: George McLuskie

New Raith Rovers manager Ray McKinnon has moved swiftly to make top scorer Mark Stewart his first signing.

Stewart had been courting interest from rival Championship clubs, but following talks with McKinnon on Monday, the 10-goal striker has agreed terms on a new two-year contract.

McKinnon told the Press: “We’re delighted Mark has signed - it puts a marker out there.

“He is a proven goalscorer in the Championship last season. Anybody who’s got a scoring record in that division is worth his weight in gold.

“He’s also got pace to stretch defences which is a great asset.

“He’s a hard-working lad and is at a good age in his career. We think he will be a very big part of our squad next season.”

McKinnon made Stewart one of his top priorities, meeting the striker straight after Monday’s press conference, which helped convince the striker that his future lay in Kirkcaldy.

“I had another couple of options but I was always going to hold out to speak to the new manager,” Stewart said.

“I was fortunate that he was really keen and got in touch with me straight away.

“When the manager is like that with you, mentally, it’s a big thing.

“He just wants me to kick on next year and get more goals for the team.

“If I can do that, and help the club kick on, then you never know where we can go.

“I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Stewart is hopeful that he can help the club improve on last season’s sixth place finish.

“I’m not going to put expectations on it, but most teams in this league of a similar size to Raith are aiming for a play-off place,” he said. “It’s a chance to get that shot back up to the Premiership.”

After signing, Stewart was pictured promoting the club’s season tickets, and he hopes Raith fans will come out in numbers next season to support the new manager.

“We’ve got a good loyal fan base but if we can get more fans through the door then that can only help,” he said,

“The fans are a big part and if they can come and and buy season tickets hopefully we can all kick on together next year and do something special.”

Stewart is also confident he can improve on last season’s 10 goal tally.

“Ten goals isn’t bad in that league - but it could’ve been a lot more,” he said. “I missed a lot of chances and went through a goal drought.

“I’m in a position to miss them - if I wasn’t then I’d be worried because it would mean I was really doing something wrong. I’ll be looking to convert a better rate of chances next year and hopefully improve on my tally.”

BUY THE PRESS AND WIN A REFUNDED SEASON TICKET:

To mark the dawn of the Ray McKinnon era at Stark’s Park, The Fife Free Press has teamed up with Raith Rovers in an exclusive season ticket promotion.

Anyone who buys a season ticket between today (Thursday) and next Friday, June 5, will be entered into a prize draw where the lucky winner will have their season ticket REFUNDED.

To enter, simply cut out the FFP article, writing your contact details where prompted, and hand it to the Stark’s Park office when you make your purchase. Photocopies will not be accepted.

Eric Drysdale, Raith chief executive, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have brought Ray in.

“What we’re looking for now is the supporters, the town, and the local community to really get behind the club and help push us on.

“We finished mid-table last season and we hope to do better this season, but we absolutely need bums on seats. If you’re entering the FFP competition, come down next week with the cut out and you might be lucky enough to get your season ticket refunded.”

Season tickets are sold from Stark’s Park, 9.00 a.m - 4.00 p.m Monday to Thursday, and 9.00 - 1.00 p.m on Fridays.