Worst XI: Raith Rovers

November 21, 2013

We’re continuing our theme of skipping between Stirlingshire and Fife – having uncovered the fannies of Falkirk in the last edition – by returning to the Kingdom and exposing Raith Rovers. Tell Him He’s Pele writer Shaughan McGuigan gives us his worst select XI from watching the Starks Park club through the years. And yes, the name Claude Anelka does feature.

Within ten minutes of putting on my imaginary thinking cap, I realised that picking just 11 men who have performed abysmally in a Raith shirt, was going to be a far more onerous task than I’d first anticipated. How on earth, can you hope to whittle down the legion of has-been’s and never-will-be’s who have passed through Stark’s Park, into a single team?

There’s also the definition of “worst”. Is a young player with little ability, thrown into the team out of necessity, more deserving of a place than an expensive talent who doesn’t bother his arse? Should the players have all played a certain amount of games, or is a one-off début from hell enough to warrant a spot? Should I even bother researching, or would I be as well just naming eleven players who used to start for Claude Anelka?

In the end, I picked players who were genuinely terrible, and some who were just poor, but the circumstances surrounding their inclusion made matters worse. I also threw in a couple of players who didn’t play too often, but their back story arguably justifies them making the list. 

Writing about these players, generated almost as much depression as watching them, but feel free to tell me who you think I’ve overlooked. I’ll say in advance though, I refuse to budge on Jack Perry.


Goalkeeper – Andy McNeil

If supermarkets sold goalies, then Andy McNeil would almost certainly be in the Tesco Value range. In terms of unsolved mysteries, the fact he displaced David McGurn half way through the so-near-yet-so-far season of 2010/11, is up there with the Mary Celeste, the Bermuda Triangle, and Bigfoot. Inferior to McGurn in every conceivable way, his introduction as Raith’s custodian, coincided with Rovers going from having the meanest defence in Scotland, to only the 4th best in the league. His performance at East End Park in a league decider was inexorable, and while he wasn’t the sole reason Raith failed to win the First Division that season, he was approximately 92% responsible. Andy was last seen at Livingston, where he’d cultivated a hairstyle that incredibly featured two miniature pony-tails, presumably to distract supporters from the fact that he was dropping the ball, and misjudging crosses.


Right Back – Odd Areld

Odd’s début for the club came in a Fife derby against Dunfermline in 1996, and despite it only being November, the sheer amount of things that went wrong during the game, seemed to generate a sense of inevitability about the clubs relegation, despite there still being five months of the season to go. After the crowd eventually got inside after a delay due to a turnstile fault, they discovered that Raith had three Norwegian trialists all listed in the starting eleven, Kent Bergersen, Vetle Andersen, and poor old Odd. While his compatriots fared okay, Odd picked up a booking, fell over the ball, and took a foul throw. On a day when John Millar scored an own-goal and Shaun Dennis received a red-card, Odd’s misery, and Raith career, was finally ended after 72 mistake laden minutes. That wasn’t the end of the error strewn affair however, as Raith were fined £10,000 for fielding three trialists, when the maximum allowed was two. Iain Munro said after the game that he’d love to look at Areld again, but thankfully this seemed to be a lie, and he disappeared back to Norway, never to be seen again.


Centre Back – Jack Perry

Jack is the first player in the team who was brought in during the Claud Anelka farrago, and he was arguably the worst of the bunch. Brought in on-loan with Wes Daly from Queens Park Rangers, the story goes that Perry was actually the son of a QPR investor, who’d been handed a contract as a thank you to the benefactor. Punted up north to Kirkcaldy, it was soon discovered that the only thing he had in common with a footballer from the rarefied atmosphere of the English Championship, was a stupid haircut and a big earring. Within two matches, his full name was never heard without the expletive “fu**ing” being uttered, normally just before, or after his first name. Jack F**king Perry’s last senior game of football was apparently in the Portuguese second tier, way back in 2006. If you’re out there Jack, I hope you eventually found a career you were good at. 


Centre Back – Willie Lyle

Now, I know what you’re (probably not) thinking, the inclusion of Willie Lyle means that this defence now contains three right sided defenders, and you’d be correct, my back-line does indeed have a lop-sided look about it. However, I reckon my trio of haddies could play equally as poorly, anywhere in a defensive trio, hence Willie’s inclusion. Lyle was signed by Gordon Dalziel in the summer of 2005, and played a major role in Raith’s worst campaign since, well, the season previously, eventually finishing 7th in the Second Division. It may be a debate for another day, but Daziel’s team was probably just as bad Anelka’s, and Lyle was a stand out, shanking his clearances into the Pratt Street Stand so often, you began to wonder if he was trying to hit someone he didn’t like. Now playing for Auchinlech Talbot, where his nickname is hopefully Willie LOL. 


Right Midfield – Dave Bowman

By 1998, Jimmy Nicholl had returned to Stark’s Park for his second stint at managing Raith Rovers, and while his first attempt was an unbridled success, his second stab at it was proof that you can’t make a soufflé rise twice. Dave Bowman was the perfect example of everything that was wrong with the club at that time. Past-it and expensive, Bowman looked unfit, uninterested, and uncouth, judging by his actions during a 1-0 home defeat to Clydebank. After the match sponsors, presumably as a joke, awarded him the man-of-the-match award, the crowd reacted with a sarcastic cheer, to which the former Dundee United legend responded to by flashing a V sign at the home stand. That wasn’t enough however, and at full-time, he asked one irate fan to meet him outside after the game for a scrap. Bowman ended that season with six bookings, two red-cards, and absolutely no positive contributions whatsoever. His next club was the wonderfully named, Orient and Yee Hope Union, while his last club was the less exotic sounding, Forfar.


Centre Midfield – Baroan Tagro

Another from Anelka’s all-star-select, Tagro was signed from Stevenage, and was proof that Claude’s scouting system wasn’t just concentrated on France, but was equally adept at picking up absolute dross from down south as well. To describe the Cameroonian as slow, really wouldn’t be summarising the midfielders lack of pace adequately. Species could evolve in less time than it took him to sprint 40 yards, but then that’s possibly down to the fact that he and two of his team-mates were once allegedly spotted having a McDonald’s lunch. Hardly a crime I hear you say, well yes, but it was a Saturday, and they had a game in two and a half hours. Despite being only 36, Tagro has been without a club for 5 seasons now, but if anyone out there requires a Big Mac scoffing slow coach, whose keepie-uppie record is probably in single figures, then Baroan’s your man.


Centre Midfield – Paul Harvey

Imagine you had £250,000 to spend, just think what you could do with it. You could see the world, or build a nice house, you’d presumably treat your loved ones, the options are pretty much limitless. I’ll tell you what you probably wouldn’t do though, you wouldn’t spunk the entire lot on a bog standard Airdrie midfielder. Incredibly however, that’s what Jimmy Thomson managed to do, a man who looked as if he’d somehow became the Raith manager in a case of mistaken identity, but was afraid to say anything. Harvey, somehow started his career at Manchester United, but his two years at Stark’s Park is almost equally as anonymous, as Raith’s current, and probably eternal record signing, spent the majority of his time as an unused sub. Mind-boggling.


Left Midfield – Sean Killgannon

Arsenal’s trophy drought has often been attributed to Arsené Wenger having a blind spot when it comes to signing defenders, with the Frenchman apparently not having the ability to judge the good, from the bad. Gordon Dalziel suffered from a similar affliction during his time as the Raith Rovers manager, but unfortunately, his blind spot, applied to every single position of the team. After deciding Laurie Ellis, an extremely competent left back and centre half wasn’t the man to play left wing, he announced that he needed someone for the position who had pace, skill and the ability to cross a ball. Imagine our surprise then, when he signed Sean Kilgannon, a man who had zero out of three of those attributes. Incredibly Kilgannon once played in the English Premier League for Middlesbrough, a fact that discounts the “best-league-in-the-world” schtick, and probably contributed to Bryan Robson getting the heave-ho.


Centre Forward – Andy Walker

By 1998, Jimmy Nicholl version 2.0 had quite clearly taken leave of his senses. Raith had now taken to wearing their yellow away strip at home due to the Northern Irishman claiming it generated a more positive aura. It created a less positive vibe with the footballing authorities, who censured the club for wearing it at Stark’s Park more than the allowed four times. Nothing however, was barmier than Nicholl’s decision to revitalise Raith’s promotion bid, by signing up 33-year-old Andy Walker on loan from Sheffield United. The deal, so the story goes, made Walker the highest paid player ever in the Scottish First Division, but even if that’s false, and Rovers were only paying him half the minimum wage at the time, they still wouldn’t have got their moneys worth. Two goals, both from the penalty spot, was all Andrew brought to the Stark’s Park party, and even one of those was into a Hamilton midfielder, after their goalie had been sent off. The local newspaper, the Fife Free Press is normally fairly accurate in it’s marks-out-of-ten ratings, and Walker’s average over his eight appearances was a whopping 3.8, a fact I’m constantly reminded of when he’s offering dull, vapid opinions on Scottish football for Sky. 


Centre Forward – Stephen Reynolds

Reynolds was the perfect example of how John McGlynn’s reputation for doing well in the loan market is a bit of a myth. Up until this point, McGlynn’s poor loan signings had all come from Hearts, players like David Armstrong, David Templeton, and a plethora of others from Tynecastle who weren’t called David. Stephen Reynolds on the other hand was from St Johnstone, and was sent out on loan at the same time as Stevie May. Unfortunately, while May was scoring goals every 20 minutes or so for Alloa, Stephen was doing just the opposite for Raith. He didn’t even look like a footballer, tall and incredibly skinny, at certain angles he looked like someone had thrown a Rovers strip over a coat-stand. During Reynolds youth career, his scoring record was compared to Kris Boyd’s, but in 15 games for Rovers he managed one solitary strike against Morton, presumably one of the low points in the Greenock club’s 139 year history.


Centre Forward – Hervé Ebanda

The last of Claude Anelka’s input into the squad, and what a way to end it. When you describe to opposition fans what the players of that team were like, you can tell that they don’t really believe how bad they were, after all, every club has had some duffers. However, to put them, and Hervé, into a bit of perspective, here’s a quote from an interview with Gordon Dalziel in 2010, about what happened when he first took over the managerial reins.

“One day I called Hervé Ebanda into my office, and told him that he had no chance, and he eventually agreed with me and told me that he’d hardly played any eleven-a side-football. He proceeded to tell me that he knew that he wouldn’t make it as a footballer, but he would happily stay around the club and paint my office and do general handy work about the place.”

Hervé Ebanda ladies and gentleman, rubbish at football, but not bad at fixing shelves.


Manager – Claude Anelka

With the exception of Antonio Calderón, if you were to place every single Raith manager from 1996 to 2006, into a giant hessian sack, and started to punch the bag indiscriminately, you’d almost certainly be striking someone who deserved it. You could pick anyone from that era in truth. Iain Munro and Jimmy Thomson were both disasters, Tommy McLean signed up, then extraordinarily decided to leave after just six days to form the worlds most miserable double act at Tannadice with his brother. Craig ‘I’ll help you out for a few weeks’ Levein was absolutely no help whatsoever, while Gordon Dalziel acted like an incumbent Prime Minister, constantly blaming the last guy for everything that was going wrong, despite the fact it was his hand-picked players who were being regularly pumped by Forfar and Peterhead.

Like the plot to the film Highlander though, there can be only one, and just like Christopher Lambert in that sword swinging epic, the protagonist comes with a French accent. It’s impossible to sum up his time at the club in just a few words, but suffice to say, winning the pre-season Annan Trophy on penalties against the Gretna U-19 team, probably didn’t make up for the season that followed. Claude was so bad, he will almost certainly never be asked back to draw the half-time raffle, which, considering Kevin Twaddle did it recently, shows just how rubbish he was. Apparently now a DJ, if his mixing skills are similar to his managerial ability, there’s presumably large pauses between each track. Claude Anelka, quite simply, the worst of the worst.


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