Could 2014 be a glory year for Raith?

Raith Rovers
Raith Rovers

Look back through the history of any provincial football club and the glory years stand out above the rest.

For Raith Rovers, 2014 could become one of those years.

For only the fourth time in their history, Rovers will be represented in a national cup final.

The Ramsdens Cup may lack the same prestige and respect afforded to the League and Scottish Cups.

But it’s a national competition nonetheless and for clubs like Raith games don’t get much bigger than a final against Rangers, live on the telly, at a sell-out Easter Road.

It’s also Rovers’ first appearance in such an occasion since winning the League Cup final against Celtic on penalties at Ibrox on November 27, 1994.

That famous date is engraved on the mind of every Rovers fan, and will be marked with a 20th anniversary Hall of Fame celebration this November (an event that is already sold out).

Grant Murray and his players are reminded of those iconic achievements every day as the pictures hang on the wall in almost every corridor of Stark’s Park.

What they would give for a result that would turn April 6, 2014 into one of Kirkcaldy’s most memorable dates. And who knows, maybe it will be them getting a celebratory reunion show 20 years from now.

A victory after all would surely rank among the club’s greatest moments, particularly given the Old Firm opposition.

Were it to be followed by promotion to the Premiership, then 2014 really would be considered one of Rovers all-time glory years.

After a storming start to the campaign, a poor run of form towards the end of last year has made winning the league a tall order, but with play-offs newly introduced, Rovers are still in with an outside chance of reaching the top flight.

Even if they don’t go up, with next season’s Championship likely to include Rangers, Hearts and possibly Dunfermline, there will be plenty big games to look forward to, albeit in an even tougher league.

The immediate aim is to finish the season in the top four, anything less would be considered a failure, especially after the start they made.

After a sixth-place finish in his first season in charge, manager Murray put his own stamp on the side in the summer, clearing out the dead wood to make way for several fresh faces.

Things started very well as his new-look side went 10 league games unbeaten from mid-August to early November and Rovers were looking like surprise title contenders.

However, a steep dip in form towards the end of the year has turned those high hopes into concerns, although injuries and suspensions have exposed the lack of depth in the squad.

If Rovers can keep key players fit, cut out the needless red cards and rediscover the form they showed in those first few months of the season, then they can get their season back on track.

Off the pitch the club is also moving in the right direction, having recently posted its first annual profit in eight years, with £81,350 raised in the year to June, 2013.

A restructured business model - cost-cutting in other words - combined with windfalls from good cup runs has provided the club with a bit more financial security.

With attendances continuing to decline, the directors still have a fight on their hands to balance the books, as is the case at most clubs at this level, but there is now a light at the end of the tunnel that wasn’t there a few years ago.

The club is also seeing a return its investment in youth in recent years with home grown players - the likes of Ross Callachan, Reece Donaldson and Lewis Vaughan - now making significant contributions at first team level.

The board also believe they have the right man in charge to lead the club into a bright future with Grant Murray handed a contract extension until the summer of 2016.

Shrewd decision-making has provided the club with stability, and they will hope that leads into success - and silverware - in the coming year.

Lose the cup final and fail to make the top four and 2014 will go down as just another chapter in the 130-year history of Raith.

The opportunity is there, however, for this squad to make the coming year one of the club’s finest.