Raith back in training as new season approaches

All pics: Tony Fimister
All pics: Tony Fimister

Raith Rovers players returned to preseason training this week for the start of a new era under manager Gary Locke.

The boss met his squad for the first time at the Michael Woods training complex in Glenrothes on Monday before putting them through rigorous fitness tests.

Ross Callachan

Ross Callachan

Locke declared himself happy with the condition of the players following their summer break, and is now looking forward to the first friendly away to Forfar Athletic on Tuesday.

“We’re delighted with the way it’s gone so far,” Locke told the Press.

“Myself and Darren (Jackson) have been working ever so hard with the boys over the past few days.

“We’re really happy with the fitness levels and we’ll use the next few weeks to get them that wee bit fitter.

Feeling the strain on the first day back

Feeling the strain on the first day back

“The first game is next Tuesday so we’ve had to get balls out fairly quickly, and the boys are working hard.

“The most important thing is they are ready to go on July 16.”

Also meeting the squad for the first time on Monday were new signings Chris Johnston, Bobby Barr and most recent arrival, Kevin McHattie.

Locke is delighted to have secured the former Scotland Under 21 left back following his release from Kilmarnock.

Sprint testing

Sprint testing

“With the budget we’ve got it can be difficult to get these type of players to the club, especially someone with so many Scotland Under 21 caps,” he said.

“A few clubs were in for Kevin but luckily he knows me from Hearts and Kilmarnock, he enjoys working with me, and that helped sway his decision.

“He’s a Raith fan as well and knows everything about the club, which makes a big difference. Fans can relate to players like that.

“He’s a young lad with bags of potential - he might even be someone who could make the club money in the future.”

The players are put through the dreaded bleep test

The players are put through the dreaded bleep test

Also training with Raith this week is former Kilmarnock captain Mark Connolly, a 24-year-old defender, and ex-Dundee United striker Jordan Moore (22).

Of centre-half Connolly, the manager said: “We’ll have a look at him, but we’re well off in that department just now.

“The main priority at the minute is get a couple of strikers in and we’re working 24/7 on that.

“We’re close on a couple but players have got four or five clubs after them and are keeping their options open.

“One of them might have to be a loan signing so we’ll need to wait on bigger clubs starting back before we get one of them in.

“Ideally we’d want everyone in for the first friendly but I’ve been in management a while now and I know it’s not always possible.

New Raith boss Gary Locke

New Raith boss Gary Locke

“There’s a couple of irons in the fire and players have got decisions to make - hopefully they want to come play for us.”

Lewis Toshney’s non-appearance at training this week added fuel to the rumours that he could be on his way to Dundee United.

“Lewis has not been to training because he’s been ill,” Locke stressed, however, The Press understands that former boss Ray McKinnon is keen to take the defender to Tannadice, but so far no concrete offer has been made.

“If an offer comes in we’ll consider it, but he’s still very much a Raith Rovers player,” Locke added.

Kyle Benedictus sporting an interesting new look!

Kyle Benedictus sporting an interesting new look!

Assistant Darren Jackson, goalkeeper coach Wayne Henderson, and gaffer Gary Locke are all smiles.

Assistant Darren Jackson, goalkeeper coach Wayne Henderson, and gaffer Gary Locke are all smiles.