Playing for Raith is a dream come true for James

James Berry in action for the Raith Rovers first team. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
James Berry in action for the Raith Rovers first team. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Every young football fan dreams of playing for the club they support.

In James Berry’s case, those dreams are coming true.

It is not that long since the Raith Rovers midfielder was sitting in the stands with his late grandfather, George Penman, cheering on his heroes.

Indeed, when Rovers won the old Second Division back in season 2008-09, Berry was in the crowd, watching his current team mate Iain Davidson lift the trophy.

Now aged 18, and part of Craig Easton’s development squad at Stark’s Park, the youngster is hoping to build on a promising start to the season that has seen him earn his first senior start in the Challenge Cup, as well as making a number of substitute appearances for the first team.

“It’s been brilliant just to come in and do my bit, helping to see out games,” the former Balwearie High School pupil told the Press.

“Hopefully I’ll just get as many minutes as I can this season, and see what happens.

“I made my first start in the cup against Brora, which was a tough game, but a good experience. I came on at Hampden last week as well, which was a brilliant experience.

“You learn quickly that it’s a big step up from the 20s with bigger guys, faster pace, and the counter attacks are a lot quicker.

“There’s also an atmosphere in first team games that you don’t get at 20s because you’ve got the crowd as well, and there’s a lot more pressure because every win is vital.

“It’s good to be involved and I’m learning a lot.”

Berry signed for the club on his 10th birthday and progressed through the youth ranks, via the Fife Elite Academy, before signing his first professional contract with Rovers last year.

“I used to go to all the games – my grandad used to take me,” he said.

“It was a dream back then, so when I look at where I am now, it’s crazy.

“I was with St Johns Lions Boys Club, and ended up going in for trials because Raith were looking for players to start up an U11s team, and I ended up getting signed through that.

“Jimmy Lindsay was head of the academy back then, but it’s changed a lot over the years. At the end of U15s we were moved into the Fife Elite and I got moved up to U17s which is a dual age group because there was no U16s team, so that was quite tough going.

“I did two years there, and then at the end of that I signed my first pro contract here.

“When you’re younger you don’t realise that’s what it is – you either get released or get a first team contract.

“As it gets closer you start to think, ‘I need to go for this – it’s a dream’, so I was absolutely delighted when I signed for Raith. It was a good feeling.”

Berry watched another home grown player, Ross Callachan, play over 200 times for Raith before earning a recent move to Hearts, and he hopes his career can go in a similar direction.

“Call was brilliant with all the young boys ,and he’s now got his move and showing he’s got the quality to do well for Hearts,” he said.

“It’s tough shoes to follow but hopefully I can take a bit of experience from that, look at his game, and maybe one day that will be me.”

Berry also revealed the positive influence that Raith’s head of youth, Craig Easton, is having on his development.

“Craig is brilliant with us,” he said. “I think what he was like as a player just rubs off on all of us.

“His enthusiasm, and his workrate is second to none - he’s always wanting us to do extra in the gym all the time.

“He’s always giving us advice, and specifically for me, he was a centre-midfielder and a similar player to me, so it’s brilliant for me to learn from him.”