Paul Smith on playing for both Raith Rovers and Dunfermline: Two great clubs, one big rivalry

Raith Rovers assistant manager Paul Smith played for both clubs.
Raith Rovers assistant manager Paul Smith played for both clubs.

Paul Smith knows more than most what the Fife derby means to both sets of supporters.

During his playing career, with 127 appearances for Raith Rovers and playing 204 times for Dunfermline, he experienced the fixture from both sides of the divide.

After hanging up his boots, ‘Smudger’ was also involved in several derbies as John McGlynn’s assistant manager during their first stint in the dug-out together.

Now back for a second spell as McGlynn’s number two, the 56-year-old is looking forward to facing his former club once again in this Saturday’s Scottish Cup fourth round clash.

“There is nothing better than this derby,” he said.

“The fans really miss it, and everyone remembers the special occasions, such as Davie McGurn’s save the last time Raith won over there.

“There’s always a good support, with both sets of fans getting behind their team, and we’re really looking forward to it, as Dunfermline will be.”

Smith’s first memories of the fixture date back to near the end of season 1984-85, when a Rovers team led by Bobby Wilson travelled to East End Park.

“Dunfermline were going for the league at that time, and we went there and beat them 3-2,” he said. “Myself and Keith Wright scored, and there was a huge following that day.

“We were mid-table but we went there and turned them over and I think that was one of the results that stopped them getting promoted that year. It’s one that sticks in your mind.”

Smith has less fond memories of the fixture during his Dunfermline playing days, which happened to coincide with Raith’s most successful period in the early 1990s.

“I remember coming to play at Stark’s and Raith had a great team,” he said.

“They had good experience with Nicholl, Dalziel, Hetherston and McStay mixed with the likes of Crawford and Cameron coming through.

“They were the team on top at that time.”

Smith is just one of several players to have featured for both clubs over the years, and he reckons the close ties ensure the fixture is based more on rivalry than hatred.

“I was really surprised with how much hatred there was between Dunfermline and Falkirk,” he said. “But it’s a real rivalry in the Fife derby, with great banter between the supporters, rather than a hatred towards each club. It’s two great family clubs that have got a love-hate relationship.”

Part of the banter among fans involves the ‘Big Team, Wee Team’ debate.

“Dunfermline have always got this thing that they are the big club,” Smith added.

“They think they are the big club, let’s put it that way!

“But at times over the years, Raith have been the ones in the Premier League, getting into Europe, and been in a higher division.

“The clubs have swapped about over the years.”

Even when not employed by the clubs, Smith’s ties with both Raith and Dunfermline have remained strong through former player reunions, and Hall of Fame invites.

“It has always been good to go back to Raith, especially when Ally Gourlay was there with the former players, and Dunfermline have a similar set up with former players as well,” he said. “I get invited back there and get a hard time from big Leish because I’ve played at Raith, and he always mentions that.”

Smith is now looking forward to coming up against against newly-appointed Dunfermline manager Stevie Crawford, another former player who had success with both clubs.

“I had a coffee with Stevie three or four weeks ago to discuss the Fife Elite Academy,” he said. “Stevie’s a great guy, I’ve known him for many years, and he was a great player for both clubs.

“The Dunfermline boys will get a wee lift from the new manager coming in, and they’ll have a point to prove.

“But John and I had quite a bit of success in the past with Raith in the Scottish Cup, and hopefully it will be another game like that.”