John Baird flew 9000 miles to help Raith Rovers into Challenge Cup semi-finals

John Baird returned from Australia on Friday to feature in Raith's Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Elgin. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
John Baird returned from Australia on Friday to feature in Raith's Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Elgin. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

John Baird was so determined to keep his place in the Raith Rovers starting 11 that he flew 9000 miles to make Friday's Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Elgin.

The striker had returned to Australia last week to lodge the latest part of his visa application ahead of his planned emigration Down Under with his family next year.

The return journey meant 44 hours of flying within the space of a few days, only arriving home in the early hours of Friday morning ahead of the BBC Alba clash the same evening.

But having scored his first goal of the season in 3-1 win over Stranraer the previous Saturday, the 34-year-old was desperate to get back for kick-off.

Speaking after the match, a heavy-legged Baird explained: "I said that if I did well on the previous Saturday I wanted to play, so I was quite happy I played.

"My flight from Australia only got in this morning, but I got a cracking sleep, eight or nine hours on the first flight, then four hours on the Dubai flight, so it wasn't too bad.

"Eating flight food isn't the best, and my ankles were a bit swollen up, but we won the game and that's the most important thing."

Baird joined Raith in late September after spending the first few months of the season with Australian second tier side Langwarrin Soccer Club.

"It's probably taken me a bit longer to get back up to speed than I thought," he said.

"I played 10 games in Australia so you think you're fit, but it's a lot quicker over here.

"The team is flying so I didn't get right in, I've had to wait a wee bit, that's why I was determined to get back and play tonight.

"I've got myself in the team now I want to stay in it."

Baird was delighted to play his part in reaching the Challenge Cup semi-finals, a competition that he holds dear after scoring Raith's winning goal in the 2014 final against Rangers.

"To get to a cup final is the best day of your life, regardless what it is," he said.

"It annoys me every year when a manager would say, 'it's not the be all and end all'.

"It's an excuse when you get beat, but when you win a game, it's 'that's good, let's kick on'.

"It's just a nonsense, you want to win every game, and I don't understand why anybody wouldn't want to get to a cup final in front of a full house.

"This cup means the world to me."

Baird's contract expires in January but he remains open to the idea of extending his stay until the end of the season, and perhaps writing another piece of cup final history.

"Hopefully I will still be here if the club want me, and if the wife lets me, but I'm not in any hurry to go," he said.

The highlight of Friday's tie was the performance of 17-year-old forward Kieron Bowie, who added to his growing reputation with a brace of goals taking his season's tally to seven.

Baird is predicting a bright future for the youngster but is prepared to give him a hard time on the park to help him get there.

"You've got to make demands of him," he said.

"He's not a 17-year-old when he's on the park - he's an adult playing an adults game.

"If I'm going to treat him with kid's gloves he's not going to progress.

"He wants to do things a bit too quick, but that will come with experience of playing the game.

"He's got a good future ahead of him and a cup final could be a showpiece for him to get the club a couple of pound."