John McGlynn: The man who put the pride back into Raith Rovers

Former Raith Rovers manager John McGlynn, pictured at the end of one of his most momentous results, a 2-1 Scottish Cup quarter-final win at Dens Park in 2010. Pic: Neil Doig
Former Raith Rovers manager John McGlynn, pictured at the end of one of his most momentous results, a 2-1 Scottish Cup quarter-final win at Dens Park in 2010. Pic: Neil Doig

One of the highlights of Ally’s Game on Sunday - the fundraising match staged in memory of Ally Gourlay - was the return of John McGlynn to Stark’s Park.

The club’s popular former manager was thrilled to be back in the dug-out leading a team of Rovers legends that included a handful of the players he managed between 2006 and 2012.

“I was up early this morning thinking about coming back,” he said. “I had five and a half great years at Raith Rovers and I loved every minute of it so I was excited about coming back.”

McGlynn was a tireless worker throughout his time at Stark’s - he would often be found with a paint brush, under sinks, driving minibuses or making cups of tea for the press.

He was also regarded as a thoroughly nice man who had time for everyone, but it was for his work on the training pitch and on matchdays where McGlynn will be most remembered.

While there were highs and lows during his tenure, he is the man who steered the club back to its rightful place within Scottish football after years of decline.

A modern day Frank Connor, McGlynn didn’t quite get the fairytale ending as his Rovers side just missed out on promotion to the Premier League, as well as reaching a Scottish Cup semi-final, before he moved into a difficult, but dream job managing his beloved Hearts.

But in establishing Rovers place in the second tier after a Second Division title win in 2008-09, and putting an infrastructure in place behind the scenes, McGlynn set the foundations for future managerial successes - such as Grant Murray’s Ramsdens Cup triumph, and Ray McKinnon’s current promotion push - and for that he will always be held in high regard by the Kirkcaldy club.

“I’d been caretaker manager at Hearts previously, but it was my first real manager’s job, standing on my own two feet,” McGlynn said.

“We got a very quick reaction out of the players and climbed up the table from second bottom of the Second Division, as it was then, to get into the play-offs, albeit we didn’t get up that year.

“The second year we found it difficult with Ross County and Airdrie, who were both full-time, although we reached the play-offs again and just didn’t quite make it.

“It was two and a half years on when we won the league, which was a great achievement, as was getting to the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United and almost taking the club back into the Premiership.

“It was only a few games to go in the season when Dunfermline beat us to go top, after we had led the league for most of the season and were never out of the top two.

“I can look back very proudly on the time I had here. I’ve had many letters from fans over the years saying we brought the pride back into this football club, and I can look back and think we put the foundations back in the club.

“Grant Murray took over and won the Ramsdens Cup, now it’s great to see the football club in the play-offs under Ray McKinnon and, who knows, maybe getting into the Premier League.”

McGlynn admitted that he often looks back on that remarkable 2010-11 season in the old First Division and wonders what might have been.

Raith ended as runners-up, 10 points behind Dunfermline, having led their west Fife rivals for most of the campaign only to be pipped at the post after narrowly losing the biggest Fife derby in 20 years in front of 12,000 fans at East End Park with just three games to go.

The player who scored Dunfermline’s goals that day in a 2-1 win, Martin Hardie, was one of several signings the Pars made in a January spending spree, but with the club going into administration within two seasons, McGlynn feels that their overspending may have robbed his Rovers side of the title.

“Dunfermline ploughed a lot of money into getting up that year, and that was probably another nail in their coffin with regards going into administration,” he said.

“Some will look back at it and think they shouldn’t have been able to do that because they couldn’t actually pay for the players they got, whereas we were a bit more conservative and went with what we had.

“The boys we had took us so far, but the ones Dunfermline brought in was enough to get them over the winning line.

“It was a bad ending for us, but there was loads of good things that season.

“For the vast majority we had a great team spirit, everyone working hard for each other, and we won some great games. It was a great achievement to be in the top two the whole season.”

McGlynn’s influence is still stamped on the team to this day with youngsters he helped develop such as Ross Callachan and Lewis Vaughan now key first team players.

Given his huge influence in shaping the Raith Rovers we know today, it’s little wonder that McGlynn receives such a warm welcome from supporters whenever he returns to Stark’s Park.

“The fans have always treated me very well here and I thank them for that because it’s means so much to me,” he said.

At Raith, McGlynn proved himself to be a manager capable of turning an ailing football club into a stable and relatively successful one. His teams were supremely well-organised and motivated.

His move to Hearts may not have gone to plan – he was sacked with the Tynecastle club second bottom of the SPL and in severe financial difficulty at the time – but he showed glimpses of this talent in steering the club to a League Cup final, albeit he did not get the chance to lead them out, while he was also a late Luis Suarez goal away from a sensational victory over Liverpool at Anfield in the Europa League.

He was appointed boss of Livingston in September 2013 and after a good start it was a case of deja vu as the club ran into financial difficulties and he left by mutual consent little more than a year later with the club bottom of the Championship, in part due to a five-point deduction for not declaring bonus payments.

Again he reached a final, this time in the Petrofac Training Challenge Cup, but once again he never got the chance to lead the team out.

“If you’re asking me what would I do differently, well, I wouldn’t get to cup finals!” McGlynn said. “The Hearts job was one I couldn’t really turn down but maybe it was the wrong time to be at Hearts.

“Similarly, if you look at the number of managers Livingston have had over the years, it’s not a happy hunting ground for managers to have any length of time.”

McGlynn is currently enjoying a role out of the limelight as part of Celtic’s scouting department, but his tough times at Hearts and Livingston have not dampened his enthusiasm for coaching.

“It’s not put me off getting back into management - but it would need to be the right club,” he explained.

“Raith was a sleeping giant and it was a no brainer for me because I felt the fan base was there, and if you got a team going in the right direction they would support you. That definitely proved to be the case.

“If it was a similar situation out there where there was a sleeping giant, going through a bad time, and there was potential in the football club, then fine - but I wouldn’t want to take a job where you’re at the bottom of the table with no resources, and nothing in your favour.

“I’ve had a couple of jobs like that where it was very difficult and I’m not sure I want to put myself back in that situation very quickly.”