Loan spell memories key to Casalinuovo return

peter weatherson (l) is tackled by damian casalinovo greenock morton vs raith rovers at cappielow park
peter weatherson (l) is tackled by damian casalinovo greenock morton vs raith rovers at cappielow park
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DAMIAN Casalinuovo only played three games for Raith Rovers during a brief loan spell from Dundee United in 2009, but it was enough to convince him that he wanted to return to Stark’s Park one day.

So when the Argentinean striker was ready to return to Scotland after spending the last six months in his homeland recovering from a back injury, he set his heart on a move back to Kirkcaldy.

“I got in touch with Iain Davidson and told him I was coming back to Scotland, and asked if he could let John McGlynn know,” Casalinuovo told SportsPress.

“I’m really glad to be back. The month I had here two years ago was great, and the fans were great with me. I only played three games but I scored against Dunfermline and I will always remember that. It was a counter-attack goal, and the fans behind the goal started singing ‘Argentina! Argentina!’.

“It was my first experience of playing a game in Scotland, and it was really good for me.

“I came to Raith to get match fitness and it worked out well because I went back to Dundee United and started playing straight away.”

Casalinuovo joined United on a free transfer from Platense in the summer of 2009, and after his loan spell at Raith he went on to start 18 games for the Tannadice club that season, scoring eight times.

His form attracted the interest of Hamilton Accies, who paid a five-figure sum on transfer deadline day in August 2010 to take him to New Douglas Park.

However, after starting only six games for Accies, and failing to score, Casalinuovo agreed to terminate his contract last summer, and he has been without a club since.

“I had one year left at Hamilton, but I wasn’t happy there to be honest, so we came to an agreement to finish the contract,” he said. “I went back to Argentina and started feeling some pain in my back, and after some studies I found out I had a herniated disc.

“It meant I couldn’t sign for any teams. I had a few offers in Argentina but had to reject them.

“I struggled with the injury for three months but after a lot of physio I started to feel better, so I started training again in the last three months.

“January was a good window to get back to football, and I was thinking of coming back to Scotland because I played most of my career here.

“Raith were one of the first teams I thought about. I know the fans, the staff and the team mates here. It’s a football team that works really hard and was one of the first teams that came to my mind.

“Many of the boys are still here from the last time, so not many things have changed, which is nice.”

Casalinuovo has started both games since signing a contract until the end of the season, lasting 55 minutes of the Scottish Cup defeat to Morton, and 72 minutes of Saturday’s draw in the league match in Greenock.

“It’s step by step,” he said. “I’ve been out for a long time, but I’m feeling okay and working hard during the week to get my fitness back.

“After a couple of games I’ll start to feel better, and hopefully I’ll be ready for 90 minutes soon – and if a goal comes that will be even better!”

Raith, currently eighth and in a battle to avoid relegation, are in a different position to the one he first experienced at the club two years ago when the team was top of Division One.

“There is definitely the materials here to win games and forget about relegation,” Casalinuovo said.

“We worked really well on Saturday and were really unlucky not to take three points, but if we keep working hard we will be winning more games than we lose.

“I’m feeling really comfortable playing up front with Pat Clarke and John Baird. They are really good players, and they work really hard.”