Raith chairman: Good football still the aim - but we’ve got to win more games

Stark's Park - Kirkcaldy - Fife -  Raith chairman Bill Clark -  credit- Fife Photo Agency
Stark's Park - Kirkcaldy - Fife - Raith chairman Bill Clark - credit- Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers chairman Bill Clark has given a detailed insight into the club’s planning for the forthcoming season.

In a 40-minute interview with the club’s own media channel, Raith TV, the figurehead spelled out the reasons behind a number of key decisions taken behind the scenes following the failure to win promotion to the Championship for a second consecutive season.

“On the day after the draw down at Palmerston we met with the manager and his assistant for a three-hour session and hammered out a number of things,” Clark explained.

“First of all, what was our approach going to be in the coming season? We agreed it was going to continue to be trying to play good, flowing attacking football – entertaining football as well – but with more emphasis on, we’ve got to win more games.

“If we’d won half the games we’d drawn last season we’d have won the league. We appreciate we can play good football but there’s got to be a grit and determination there.

“Then we went through each individual player and decided on whether we were going to release them, extend contracts or offer new contracts, and at the end of three hours we’d come to a 99 per cent agreement between the management team and ourselves.

“Since then John and Paul have been working like beavers, sounding out players, talking to agents, and have made tremendous progress during the past week or two.”

One of the pivotal decisions taken at the meeting was to run with a hybrid system for the current season incorporating part-time players within the squad.

Clark explained: “We’re going to have 11 or 12, maybe even more full-time players, so the core of the team will still be full-time. But bringing in part-time players gives us the opportunity to bring in a strength of players who don’t want to be full-time.

“Given the differentials are reducing between paying for full-time and part-time, we think it will work well.

“We’re going to be signing a number of really good players who have other jobs, but want to play part-time, to strengthen and supplement what we’ve got in the full-time squad.”

Clark also went into detail on the decision to release four first team players, including one player who had been under contract for next year, winger Nathan Flanagan.

“Nathan played well but he was hot and cold,” he said.

“He’s a very emotional player and got very down if he made a mistake, and fans will have seen that. He was also very reluctant to be substituted.

“All in all, we’re going to be playing a different game next season and we cancelled his contract.”

Also released were Nat Wedderburn, Liam Buchanan and Chris Duggan.

“In some games Nat was very good but the feeling was in other games he just wasn’t so good,” Clark said. “He slowed the ball down coming through midfield so we’re going for a faster model next year.

“Liam contributed a number of goals but his legs are just beginning to go, and I think he would even acknowledge that.

“Chris was very unfortunate in that he had a lot of injuries and didn’t get a chance to do an awful lot, so we decided we would let him go.

“All of them played their part last year and we’re really thankful they did.”

Clark also revealed that 19-year-old striker Jack Smith, a product of the Fife Elite Academy who penned his first professional contract with the Kirkcaldy club last week, will wear a specialist boot insert next season to address a recurring foot problem.

“Jack is fine, but he’s got a problem with his foot we think can be overcome with a special kind of boot,” he said. “One leg is an inch shorter than the other, we’ve discovered, but he’s got great potential, everybody has seen it. Hopefully this will be the season where we can get more out of him.”

On the release of three of the club’s younger prospects – James Berry, Ryan Stevenson and Euan Valentine – Clark explained that the players themselves had asked to leave in order to pursue further education and apprenticeships outwith football.

Away from on-field matters, Clark revealed that the club will be unveiling a new home kit later this month, with crime author Val McDermid remaining as front of shirt sponsor. Also, in November, Raith will be releasing a special retro strip to mark the 25th anniversary of the Coca-Cola Cup final win over Celtic.

The yellow away kit will be remaining the same.

Clark also issued a rallying cry to supporters to purchase season tickets, with sales currently slower than last year.

“Hopefully people will rally round and get their season tickets,” he said. “There are two friendlies against Hamilton and Spartans and they are valid for them, so it’s well worth getting your season ticket before these games.

“We’ve sold around 700 but we need to go above that, because when you look at our gates, although they are the biggest in League One, the money coming through the turnstiles is by no means enough to keep the club afloat.

“There’s where sponsors and hospitality come in – all those things add up and are crucial to the success of the club.”

Clark also revealed that the artificial surface – installed last summer at a cost of around £700,000 – is producing new income from pitch hire, while second-hand portacabins have been acquired with the aim of installing separate changing facilities.

The chairman added: “The money is going to Stark’s Park Properties but we’re coming to arrangement – we haven’t finalised it yet – where Raith Rovers get a proportion of all the earnings coming in from the pitch and use of the dressing rooms.”