Photo: Lesley Fleming Photography
There was a unanimous reaction of disappointment on Tuesday among the Rovers support to see Grant Anderson leave for Kelty Hearts and end his second spell with the club. In a era of one year deals and uncertainty, Anderson made his mark among the Rovers support over his two spells. He was one of a small band of players to work his way up the chain starting off in non-league football with Kirkintilloch Rob Roy before moving to Stenhousemuir and Hamilton Accies.
In one of his final acts before departing for Hearts, John McGlynn convinced him to join Rovers. Anderson became a key figure throughout the next few years. He quickly won over fans with his directness on the ball and physical presence. In the seasons before he had arrived, Rovers had rarely seen outright wingers at the club: those who did end up with the club were usually outmuscled or frustrated with inconsistent performances. Anderson's first game was a pre-season friendly against Ross County where he set up Brian Graham after a driving run down the wing. Following the game, in proper fanboy manner I sent a tweet saying how impressive he'd been. Shortly after, his girlfriend sent him a response saying "Oh christ, He's gone a fan club already". The fan club only grew from there.
Ando's four years at Stark's Park marked a period of security for the club. In May 2018 he sat down with Craig G Telfer on the Pele Podcast to discuss his period and the highs and lows at the club. Notably, he covered off the three major cup upsets which marked his first spell. There was his 'backwards header' goal in the incredible 3-2 win away to Hibs in February 2014. Rovers went into the game having failed to find the net in 5 matches and without a win since mid-December. A sizeable away support were delighted when Rovers went all guns blazing against Butcher's Hibees. With the game poised at a 2-2 draw, Ando somehow found the back of the net despite facing the centre circle and being 12 yards out. It was an effort which is a still spoken of fondly to this day. Any time a backwards header is shown from a Champions or Premier League game, you'll probably find a Rovers fan saying "Aye, very good, but Anderson against Hibs was better".
The cup success against Hibs would see a the start of series of memorable results for Rovers fans at Easter Road. This carried on in April 2014 with Murray's finest hour as manager. The Challenge Cup is often seen as a distraction for players, managers and fans alike. Danny Denholm referred to his Lower League Ramblings blog as the Jobbie's Cup. However, the 2014 competition saw Rangers stand between Rovers and lifting their second ever cup trophy. The involvement of such a large club raised the stakes and the media wrote Raith off almost immediately. Pre-match build up focused on an opportunity to get one over the late Turnbull Hutton rather than any possibility of a win.
The game itself was a tense affair. Anderson had the job of trying to keep track of Lee Wallace by helping out young Fraser Mullen. The pair did a tremendous job of snuffing out the attacking threat on the wing. After 116 minutes of struggle, John Baird broke the deadlock and wrote the squad's place in Rovers history. Anderson described the final 4 minutes as being "Terrifying...everyone is writing you off. Four minutes before the whistle goes, you're winning and you've never wanted anything more in your life...".
The final moments saw Rovers hold up the ball near the Rangers goal, and a free kick from Nicky Law fly into the stand. The ball was punted upfield and before the whistle went as the Rovers players streamed towards the delirious support in the Famous Five Stand. As is traditionally Status Quo's "Rockin' All Over the World" blared out and everything began to blur in sheer adrenaline as Jason Thomson lifted the cup.
The final cup upset took place at Ibrox in February 2015. Rovers hadn't beaten Rangers in Govan since 1959 and Anderson had a pivotal role in the run up to the second goal, beating Lee Wallace to set up Thomson who then sent a driven ball across goal which was bundled home by Christian Nade. Unlike the Ramsden's cup which was a tight affair, Rovers looked comfortable in their win at Ibrox and and were rightfully given plaudits for a distinguished second half display.
The following season saw Ray McKinnon take charge as Rovers made the Championship promotion playoffs for the first time. Ando scored a late winner away to St Mirren in a Friday night game. The second half of the season saw less game time and fans were disappointed to see Anderson wave farewell at Easter Road following the playoff defeat where he was an unused substitute: it seemed like a inappropriate way for him to leave after four years of dedicated service. Spells with Queen of the South and Peterhead followed before he joined Stevie Farrell's Stranraer where he began to be utilised more as a centre forward.
Throughout this period, Rovers had suffered relegation and two failed promotion attempts to escape League 1 prompting John McGlynn to bring the fan favourite back to Stark's Park alongside fellow Ramsden's Cup winners David McGurn and John Baird. He netted several goals including winners in away trips to Dumbarton and Peterhead which later proved instrumental given the season's premature finish.
After agreeing to stay on in the summer his move to Kelty Hearts has come as a bit of a shock. Regardless of the circumstances of his second departure, he goes with the best wishes of the fans. His character was summed up a couple of seasons back when we played away to Stranraer on the second last league game. As the Stranraer players were warming up in front of the away fans and he took the time to chat to come over and speak to those who had made the trip like they were an old friend who he'd not seen in a couple of years.
Sadly the current circumstances mean that a farewell in front of the fans hasn't been possible but it's clear from social media and forums of how well regarded he has remained. He leaves having joined a unique group of players to have won both a league winners medal and a cup honours for the club.
Best of luck Grant!