An air of despondency over Stark’s Park as Raith Rovers prepare for a season in the third tier of Scottish football.
That is the scenario that Barry Smith and his team face in 2018/2019 – exactly as it was 34 years ago.
Raith Rovers were unexpectedly relegated from the old First Division – now the Championship – on the last day of the 1983/84 season, ironically by the hand of Ayr United – the team that pipped them for the League One title this year.
Raith headed to Edinburgh to play fourth from bottom, but safe, Meadowbank Thistle, just one point behind the Honest Men who had by far the harder match, away against already-promoted Dumbarton.
Rovers did their bit by winning 2-1 with goals from Jims Kerr and Marshall and at the final whistle rushed to the away bench in anticipation of celebrations to follow.
But it wasn’t to be – Ayr United had implausibly beaten the Sons by three goals to nil. Rovers’ six-year stay in the First Division was over.
It was a complete hammer blow. Players sank to the turf in disbelief. A 6-0 thumping of Brechin City the week before had given the Kirkcaldy side renewed hope and there was utter shock on the faces of manager Bobby Wilson and his coach Dick Campbell as they made their way back to the dressing room.
Speaking to the Fife Free Press a few days later, Wilson said the reality of playing in the Second Division next season, and the financial implications thereof, had begun to set in as he spoke to his players about renewing contracts.
With the club gearing every thing to a quick return to the First Division, the new wage structure placed the emphasis on a bonus system, with a reduced basic figure.
”We have to budget correctly and give the players enough incentive, to make sure we go straight back up,” explained Wilson.
“The shock of going down is just beginning to sink in, but everybody realises that. They will have to take a cut.
“We have explained the situation to them, and obviously they will want time to think about it. Nobody has signed as yet but we are quite close to coming to an agreement.”
In the aftermath of the crushing disappointment at Meadowbank rumours had spread amongst Stark’s Park supporters that team captain Donald Urquhart was set to retire, but Wilson said such talk was inaccurate.
“Donald is anxious to get the club back in its rightful place, and we are only too delighted to keep him, ” he ‘ stressed.
Relegation was a shattering blow to Rovers, particularly when it seemed that they had done enough to stay in the First Division, with Wilson calling it “the worst day I have experienced in football”.
He added: “I don’t think I have gone through another second half when I have paid so little attention to what was happening on the park.
“My mind was going on what was going on at Boghead because we had been told that Dumbarton were leading 2-0.
“There was nothing said in the dressing room after. Everybody was totally deflated. It was not a nice place to be.”
Wilson paid tribute to the supporters who had travelled to Meadowbank, saying: “They were absolutely fantastic. No praise is high enough for them. I just hope that they will continue to support us next season and that the players give them something to shout about.”
Alas, Wilson’s hopes were unfounded. It wasn’t until 1987 that the Rovers returned to the First Division under Frank Connor.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t take the current side three years to do the same.