Raith chief urges fans to get behind Gary Locke

Raith Rovers chief executive Eric Drysdale (left) with new manager Gary Locke at the official unveiling at Stark's Park last week. Pic: Steven Brown
Raith Rovers chief executive Eric Drysdale (left) with new manager Gary Locke at the official unveiling at Stark's Park last week. Pic: Steven Brown
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Raith Rovers chief executive Eric Drysdale has urged supporters to back Gary Locke after insisting he is the right man to make a push for the Premiership.

Despite a mixed response to the appointment among fans, Drysdale is confident that the board has made the correct choice and that the former Hearts and Kilmarnock boss can build on the success of predecessor Ray McKinnon.

“There were a number of good candidates that came over well, but one was head and shoulders the best, and that was Gary Locke,” he said.

“We were all extremely impressed with his enthusiasm, his preparedness, the variety and structure of his training, his knowledge of Championship level football, but most importantly, his experience of managing a club at a higher level than Raith Rovers.

“I hope and trust that the Raith Rovers supporters will get behind the new management team 100 per cent, make them feel welcome and let’s see what happens out on the park next season.”

Raith spoke to a number of people within the game - including former Scotland boss Craig Brown - and all came back with glowing references on Locke.

“What became very clear is that Gary is an exceptionally talented coach who had brought on a number of young players at both his previous clubs, while operating under very trying financial circumstances,” Drysdale added.

“Raith by comparison is relatively stable, albeit a smaller club than Hearts or Kilmarnock, but we hope this club can learn from the experience Gary has had of leading a much bigger football operation.

“We felt we wanted somebody who knew how to do things at a higher level, and who could take Raith up to that level, over time.”

Locke’s first week on the job has been combined with a prior engagement delivering an SFA ‘A’ Licence course in St Andrews, attended by Raith player Scott Robertson.

“It’s testimony to the high regard he is held in by the SFA coaching department that he is delivering that prestigious course,” Drysdale said. “He is honouring that commitment and will be at the club full-time from next week.”

Locke’s coaching credentials ensured that the Raith board were able to look past his results record at his previous clubs, where he managed to win just 26 per cent of games.

“Suffice to say there were constraints that Gary operated under at Hearts and to have brought through young players, and have had them playing attractive football despite everything that was going on behind the scenes is a terrific thing to have on your CV,” Drysdale explained.

“The circumstances were different at Kilmarnock but suffice to say it wasn’t easy for him there and things didn’t work out.

“We were aware of the track record of results at both clubs, but when you look at the circumstances he was having to work under then it’s perfectly understandable that things were not as good as they might have been.

“It’s extremely unfair and disappointing for anyone to consider him a failure. This is an enthusiastic guy who is a fully qualified Pro Licence coach that has a reputation for bringing on young players.

“He’s also a very personable character who is very keen to engage with supporters. He’s already said that he would be delighted to have a Q&A session before the season starts with supporters groups.”

Drysdale also believes that the new manager has landed an excellent assistant in former Dundee United coach Darren Jackson.

“Darren actually submitted an application for the manager’s job, and was on our radar,” he revealed.

“He is a past Scotland international, and a very respected player, coach and media operator.

“He has an ability to bring on young players, in particular forwards, and minds turn to the likes of Lewis Vaughan and Jonny Court.

“Hopefully Darren can make real progress in bringing them on further.

“He also has extensive contacts in the game from his time as an agent, as has Gary, and we will be hoping that these can help us make the most of what is left of our budget for next season.”