Rudi Skacel revealed that the chance to reunite with Gary Locke tempted him back to Scottish football as he put pen to paper on a one-year deal at Raith Rovers.
The Czech playmaker, who turned 37 on Sunday, was officially unveiled at Stark’s Park yesterday after proving his fitness in a week of training with the Kirkcaldy club.
Raith boss Locke was part of the coaching staff at Hearts during Skacel’s highly successful second spell at Tynecastle, and there is a mutual respect between the pair.
“The manager was the most important thing for me coming here,” Skacel said. “I know Lockey, and he knows me. This was key for me.
“He knows what to expect, and how I can help him, and I know he can help me. I trust him and I’m glad I can work with him again.”
Skacel is afforded cult hero status at Hearts after scoring 41 goals in 93 appearances, including a double in the famous 5-1 Scottish Cup final win over Hibs, and he is hoping to make a similar impression at Raith.
“It’s another challenge for me,” he said.
“I feel from the club and from the gaffer that they really wanted me and that’s really important for a player to hear.
“We have a good training ground, a young squad and a nice bunch of guys.
“I’m exited to be here. British football suits me and hopefully I can have a good season.”
Skacel insists that, despite his age, he still has the legs to keep up with the fast and furious pace of the Scottish Championship.
“If I wasn’t fit and healthy I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I believe I can have a decent season and help the team have good success.
“I’m happy to help the younger players and I’m prepared to take the pressure a little bit from them onto my shoulders.”
Skacel is also looking forward to renewing his old rivaly with Hibs in the Championship this season.
“My focus is only for my new club but, of course, this is another big challenge,” he said.
“There’s maybe bigger excitement in these games for the gaffer and me than the other guys, it will be like a small derby for us.
“But the main focus is on helping Raith Rovers have a good season and maybe surprising a few teams.”
Raith boss Locke is equally delighted to link up again with Skacel and believes he is still as fit as he was at Hearts.
“He’s showed up great in training,” he said. “He didn’t have to prove anything to me but I just wanted to make sure he was fit and healthy and he looks as good now as when we had him at Hearts.
“The average age of the team is 23 so his expereinced will be invaluable. ‘‘Already you can see the boost that his presence has had in the changing room and training pitch on some of the younger lads in the squad.”
Skacel has been joined at Stark’s Park by former Aberdeen striker Declan McManus (21), who has signed on a season-long loan from Fleetwood Town. The Scotland Under 21 cap spent last season on loan at Morton.
The transfers were funded by two major sponsors, Colin Smart of Kingdom Homes and Stuart Couser of Fife Letting Service.
“We’re delighted with the help we’ve had because without that we couldn’t have made these signings,” Locke said.
“It’s brilliant we’ve managed to secure two players I didn’t think we could have got. They were on our radar most of the summer but we just felt financially we couldn’t get them in.
“But, luckily, because of Colin and Stuart, we’ve managed to do the deals and hopefully both of these players can add goals to the team.”