John Baird: I should never have left Raith Rovers the last time

John Baird celebrates his winning goal - Raith Rovers against Rangers in the final of the Ramsdens Cup 2014 at Easter Road, Edinburgh. Pic: Neil Doig
John Baird celebrates his winning goal - Raith Rovers against Rangers in the final of the Ramsdens Cup 2014 at Easter Road, Edinburgh. Pic: Neil Doig

Ramsdens Cup final hero John Baird says he has unfinished business at Raith Rovers after initiating his return to the club for a third time.

The 34-year-old regrets cutting short his second spell in 2014, which ended with a shock departure to Queen of the South just six weeks after that momentous strike against Rangers.

Since then, Baird has developed a knack for scoring against his former club, including last season at Forfar Athletic, where he was player assistant-manager.

The striker left Station Park in the summer, and has spent the past few months in Australia, where is due to emigrate with his family next year.

But when it came to finding a club back home, former mentor John McGlynn was his first port of call, leading to a short-term deal until January.

“It’s brilliant to be back,” Baird told the Press. “There’s lots of reasons for it, the gaffer is a big one.

“John gave me the opportunity to play in the Championship and helped me make my name.

“I contacted him and said I was coming home for a spell, and would you be interested.

“He said, ‘yes, let me get back to you’, and within a couple of days it was done.

“If it wasn’t for the time difference it would have been done in a couple of minutes.

“Hopefully I can prove to be a success again like the last two times I was here.”

Baird first joined Raith from Airdrie in the summer of 2010 and scored 26 times across two seasons in the Championship before winning a move to the Premiership with Dundee.

He returned to Stark’s Park two years later on a short-term deal under Grant Murray, a period that would be defined by his historic extra-time winner at Easter Road.

It was expected that Baird would return the following season, so there was considerable disappointment when he moved to Championship rivals in Dumfries.

“The last time I left after the cup final it looked terrible, just walking out and going to a team like Queen of the South, which I should never had done,” he said.

“I would have signed, 100 per cent, but nobody spoke to me for two or three weeks.

“Queen’s had been badgering me since I went to Raith, I felt a wee bit wanted, and that was it.

“I shouldn’t have left, too many things happened, but I’ve always got a soft spot for Raith.

“It’s the club I’ve had most success with and it means a lot to me.”

Baird has already secured legendary status at Stark’s Park for his cup final strike, a goal which means just as much to him as it does the Raith fans.

“It was amazing – the best day of my career,” he said.

“Even when I went to Australia, everyone was saying to me, ‘you’re the boy who scored against Rangers in a cup final’.

“It wasn’t just for me, it was a brilliant day for the club and the supporters, and for everybody that played that day, their families got to see them win a cup final against Rangers.

“I don’t see anyone else at this level being able to do that.”

While in Australia, Baird featured in 10 games for second tier side Langwarrin Soccer Club, scoring four goals.

“It’s not as if I was over there eating kangaroo burgers,” he said. “It’s actually the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. It was unbelievable.

“The professionalism was up there with the way the manager is.”

Having made his comeback as an unused sub in the weekend win over Airdrie, the striker is hoping to earn his place in the team in the coming weeks.

“I’m fit and ready to go, it’s just a matter of when the manager thinks he needs me in the team,” he added.

“I need to go and prove myself. I came here at 23 and had to prove myself, so what’s the difference 10 years later? I’m just a wee bit slower.”

Baird certainly made his mark in League One last season, scoring 22 goals as he helped Forfar into the promotion play-offs, where they were knocked out by Raith at the semi-final stage.

“I knew I was leaving before the Raith play-off game,” he said.

“Forfar didn’t know, but I knew I had to go because of a change in rules for the visa, which meant I had to go over to get something lodged before November 1st.

“I played those games and that’s probably why I was looking like a wee bit of a maniac on the park, because I knew it was the end.”

The play-off second leg also ended with a public spat between Baird and new team-mate Ross Matthews for comments made on the park, but he insists that is now water under the bridge.

“I’m not going to kid on nothing happened, but we’re team mates now and the most important thing is we win games,” he said.

Baird’s current deal expires in January, but depending on the stage of his visa application, there may be an option to extend until the end of the season.

“I knew I’d have to come home to get part of it lodged, so I’m going to be here until January at least, but there’s an opportunity it could be longer,” he said.

“It will be hard to walk away from something good here.”