I left Raith a boy .... now I’m returning a man

Stark's Park - Kirkcaldy - Fife - 'Raith  new signing GREIG SPENCE  - 'credit- Fife Photo Agency
Stark's Park - Kirkcaldy - Fife - 'Raith new signing GREIG SPENCE - 'credit- Fife Photo Agency

Greig Spence rejoined Raith Rovers last week and is hoping to show supporters that he is an improved player from the one that left the club three years ago.

In his first spell with the Kirkcaldy side, a younger Spence certainly showed some promise, scoring 23 times in two seasons, and playing a major role in the club winning the Ramsdens Cup in 2014.

Greig Spence celebrates winning the Ramsdens Cup with fans in 2014. Pic: Neil Doig

Greig Spence celebrates winning the Ramsdens Cup with fans in 2014. Pic: Neil Doig

However, he left at the end of that season after failing to hold down a regular place in the starting XI, dropping into part-time football with Cowdenbeath and Alloa.

Such a move could make-or-break a young player’s career, but Spence has knuckled-down and used his time away in the lower leagues to become a more well-rounded, street-wise striker - a claim backed up by his goals record having found the net 62 times since leaving Stark’s Park.

“The last three years have allowed me to turn from a boy into a man,” Spence told the Press.

“For the last two seasons I’ve started every game, and I’ve been playing 90 minutes every week.

“That’s the best way you can improve and learn as a player. It suits my game better playing every week.

“It’s allowed me to work on my weaknesses and get an identity as a player.

“Now I know what works for me on a pitch and I’m hoping that folk can see a difference and how hard I’ve worked at my game.

“Coming back full-time will be good as I’ll be able to continue to work at my game.”

Spence was only 19 and had just been released by Celtic when he first arrived at Stark’s Park under Grant Murray and, by his own admission, his confidence could be fragile.

However, he reckons that three seasons playing regular football in League One have helped to toughen him up, both mentally and physically.

“When I was younger, confidence affected me a lot,” he said.

“But the last few seasons have allowed me to go and miss chances, and it doesn’t affect my game in the slightest, because I’ll score the next one. That’s the biggest thing.

“Last season I scored 26 goals, and if you ask any striker they’d be delighted with that, but I was actually a wee bit disappointed because I felt I could’ve scored a lot more.

“Missing chances, and bad performances don’t affect me anymore.

“I feel mentally stronger, and to play for club like Raith Rovers you need to be mentally strong.

“Maybe that’s something that affected me first time around and stopped me from kicking on.

“Hopefully I can do that this time.”

Speaking to Spence, it’s clear how much his return to Raith excites him.

Despite spending much of his youth at Parkhead after being plucked from Alloa at the age of 16, this is not a player with a Billy big-time attitude. Far from it.

“My goals attracted interest and got me to Celtic but I don’t think my overall game complemented my level of finishing,” he said. “My goal-scoring was far superior to the rest of my game.

“I’ve had to work extremely hard to catch my game up to that, and I believe it’s finally getting there after working at all my weakneses over the years.

“One thing I’ve always had is hunger. You see some boys drop down from big clubs to part-time who don’t have hunger to try and stay there, and either fall out the game or drop down the leagues.

“For me, that’s what I feel is my biggest strength – my hunger to do well. I just want to keep kicking on and scoring goals, and see where that takes me.

“The good thing about Raith Rovers this year is I can go and have a good season, score goals, get promoted, and then hopefully play in the Championship and kick on again with them.

“Obviously that takes a lot of hard work and it’s something I’m willing to do.”

Spence was speaking during a 15-minute lunch-break on Tuesday.

He has been working with his father in the plumbing industry but will return to full-time football when Raith resume pre-season training next Thursday.

“Going full-time allows you to work at your game every day, and build up a level of fitness and sharpness,” he said.

“Instead of ripping a bathroom out on a Friday I’ll be getting the legs sharp, and getting my eye in on goal.

“It can only help your game, and come a Saturday you’ll be ready to go.”

Spence was on holiday in Cancun when he first received contact from Raith boss Barry Smith and the deal was agreed in principle for him to sign on his return last Friday.

“I was on holiday when I came in one night and checked my phone and Barry had got in contact with me,” he said. “I was over the moon.

“It’s exciting – being at the club before I know how good it is, and I worked with the manager before for eight months at Alloa, so I know what to expect.

“For first five or six months at Alloa he had me absolutely flying. He had me fit, and confident.

“He keeps it simple which suits my game. Barring a few injuries I probably would’ve went on to have one of my most successful seasons under him.

“When the opportunity came up I knew I wanted to work with him again.”

Returning to the club has allowed Spence to reflect on the previous two years he had at Stark’s Park, where he made 39 starts and 32 sub appearances, including coming off the bench to set up John Baird’s winning goal against Rangers in the Ramsdens Cup final at Easter Road.

“I’ve got nothing but good memories from the two years I had at Raith,” he said.

“We won the Ramsdens Cup and it was first good to get games in the Championship and score goals.

“There was a lot of frustration as well because I felt I could’ve played a bit more than I did, and I was in and out.

“I was young at the time, so looking back maybe I had bigger ambitions than what was realistic.

“But I loved my time here, so it was one of key factors in me wanting to come back.”