Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Welcome to 'Tade From Two Yards': a new blog looking to cover off everything Raith Rovers related. Throughout the summer I've considered setting up a blog and right after the first game of the new league season seems an ideal place to start. My name is Robbie and I've been a regular at Stark's Park since the latter days of the Calderon era in 2004. I attended a few games in 1998 as a young kid but can't recall much other than Craig Dargo smashing in a hat-trick against St Mirren just after my 9th Birthday. So how did we end up here and why am I naming a blog after some French footballer who only spent a couple of seasons at Rovers?
The mid '00s was a surreal time for the club: older fans regaled us with tales of the legendary squads of 92/93, the cup winners of 1994 and the trips to the Faroes, Iceland and (most famously) Munich. However, the late '90s saw overspending as the club tried to repeat these successes: the requirement for 10,000 seat stadia for the top flight led to numerous clubs parting with large sums to develop their grounds on the off-chance of success. It was still common for second tier clubs to part with larger 5 figure sums in transfers as the UK enjoyed the boom of New Labour's Britain. Unfortunately, the bust was not far away.
It became apparent in 2001 that the club's business model wasn't sustainable. The club dropped into the third tier before Antonio Calderon led them to an immediate return. At this point, I had started going to games with friends from school on a regular basis. Having grown up watching tournaments like France '98 and Japan/South Korea '02, along with the Invincible Arsenal team and Man United's treble winners, it was a novel experience to go to games in a stand with fully grown men going ballistic. You'd meet your friends, sitting in the cold and occasionally get a waft of pipe or cigarette smoke from nearby. You'd have a laugh about the good and the bad in equal measure. There was something unique about lower league football that kept drawing me back even at that age.
The summer of 2004 saw what was easily the most infamous incident in the club's history: Claude Anelka. The late Turnbull Hutton would later go on to state that this set the club back five to six years and it's indisputable. Anelka was replaced by club legend Gordon Dalziel who limped forward with a budget which was unrecognisable compared to five years before. Many of the players weren't of the standard required although the likes of Mark Campbell and Chris Silvestro were brought in under his tenure and still have great ties to the club
The '06/07 season saw the club start miserably: a Morgaro Gomis inspired Cowdenbeath team outclassed Rovers at Stark's Park to see Dalziel's time reach an end. The fans were at a loss as to the direction the club was going in. Craig Levein came in to stop the club from plummeting but couldn't turn draws into wins before leaving for Dundee United. But in leaving, Levein gave one piece of advice to the club which had a huge bearing on the next fourteen years: bring in John McGlynn of Hearts as manager.
When McGlynn joined the club, we'd been without a win at home win for months. Shortly after his arrival, the club were unceremoniously dumped out the Scottish Cup by Dumbarton (who subsequently turn went on to face Celtic in a money-spinning tie). However, a 1-0 win against Ayr saw the club climb from second bottom of the league. Form picked up, and the club eventually made the promotion playoffs by beating champions Greenock Morton at home. This was unthinkable given the position McGlynn had started at. Sadly, promotion was a step to far after Rovers were beaten by a fine Stirling Albion squad.
It would be two years before McGlynn achieved promotion. Much like Frank Connor in the '80s, he'd drawn blood from a stone in terms of the club's finances. Raith and Ayr both had an excellent season but Rovers ended up pipping them at the post. Over a thousand men, women and children made their way from the Lang Toun to Glasgow in hope rather than expectation against Queen's Park: should Ayr slip up then the title would head to Kirkcaldy and the club would be promoted. The Spider's were second bottom of the league and needed a win to have any chance of avoiding the relegation playoffs (the squad included Barry Douglas and Paul McGinn).
Graeme Weir opened the scoring with a volley within the first minute (which my friend and I missed due to being in the pie queue). 89 cagey minutes followed punctuated with wild celebrations as a young Greg Spence put the Honest Men to the sword. Rovers were going up. They played Arbroath in monsoon conditions at Stark's Park the following week and the relief was clear. There were memorable scenes as Marvin Andrews and David McGurn ended up caked in mud during the celebrations.
The following season saw Rovers promoted and it was difficult to gauge how they'd get on. Both Dougie Hill and Grant Murray joined the club which led to a lot of questions being raised in the early days of 'The New Raith Rovers Thread' on Pie and Bovril. Rovers also brought in French centre forward Gregory Tade. In his second pre-season friendly, Tade raised eyebrows when he burst forwards against Norwich with the goal gaping: he proceeded to completely fresh air the shot. A mix of laughter and frustration rung out around the South Stand. If the question was "Can we sign a goal scoring forward fit for second tier Scottish football?" then surely this wasn't the answer.
Tade's first goal for Rovers came in a highly charged game against East Fife. At this point, Rovers had dominated East Fife the previous season and had gone almost 21 years unbeaten over them. Former Rovers chairman Willie Gray had created animosity saying that "it would be the best day of his life to go to Stark's Park and give them a do-ing". For Tade, there was also a personal element. During his time at Stranraer, Tade was subject to racial abuse in a game against East Fife. Every touch was booed but the striker had the last laugh, scoring the equaliser from a tight angle (Rovers had went 2-0 down) before Ian Williamson scored a late winner. The goal certainly went a long way to endearing him with the Stark's Park faithful.
Tade then cemented his legacy with the game up at Pittodrie on 16th February 2010. Rovers had edged past Peterhead and Airdrie after replays in the Scottish Cup. The club had always had an uncomfortable relationship with the tournament - prior to the game they'd always struggled to reach the later stages. An upset had looked on the cards at Stark's Park against the Dons before a late, suspiciously offside equaliser was fired in by Gary MacDonald. The national press were unanimous in their verdict: Rovers did well but lightning wouldn't strike twice.
This view was compounded when Rovers had a series of disasters prior to the game: skipper Mark Campbell was involved in a serious car accident and was hospitalised. Dougie Hill made the warm up but had to drop out. Ever-present right back Craig Wilson had his Michael Jordan moment and had to play the biggest game of his career with the flu. Rovers had one fully fit recognised defender in their starting 11 that evening. A young Johnny Russell was forced off with an injury early in the first half. Things were not looking positive.
In spite of all this, the players put on a heroic shift. My friend and I had travelled up simply to get Pittodrie off 'the list' of grounds to visit. Yet the players merited every cliche about hard work and determination which they were given. Winger Darren Smith crashed an effort off the post in the first half as belief started to grow among the Rovers contingent.
Then came Tade's defining moment. After some patient build up play Allan Walker burst past Jerel Ifil and fired a ball into the six yard box. The bold Gregory had suffered some misfortunes across the season in front of goal but buried home his chance. Rovers were in dreamland. Many players would go off and celebrate with their team mates. Some might taunt the opposition fans or go to thank their gaffer. Tade's did none of these: he ran the full length of the pitch before sitting down right in front of the Rovers fans lapping up the acclaim.
Rovers went on to see out the rest of the game comfortably. The legendary David McGurn (who will inevitable get extensive coverage at some point in this blog) had a quiet night. Full time saw every single player sprint right over to celebrate in front of the away support Raith Rovers had emerged from the doldrums of the second division and had completed a cup upset:
This wasn't something younger fans were familiar with given they were usually dumped out early doors in the tournament. The result led to another incredible game in which Rovers would beat Dundee to reach their first Scottish Cup semi final in 47 years.
By Scottish football standards, Tade's work ethic and guile led him on to a reasonably successful career. He left Rovers for Inverness Caley Thistle and St Johnstone where he played in Europe. His career then took a left field turn when he moved to Romania for CFR Cluj. The spell proved fruitful and ultimately led to him scoring 21 goals in 50 games (this is from wikipedia so we'll take it with a pinch of salt). A move to Steaua Bucharest saw him fail to replicate his success though he did manage to score in the Champions League. Spells in Qatar and Israel followed, before he returned to Scotland where he continues to be pestered by Rovers fans hoping for a return.
Throughout all this period Rovers suffered many low points and the occasional high. This is the inevitable life of fans from many Scottish clubs. Supporters get accustomed to hoping for the best but have a complete fear of the worst. Occasionally, both come along to different degrees. Personally, I wouldn't trade any of it though: while the bad times are soul-destroying they're necessary. They make you appreciate when the high moments come along. Some games you can anticipate that there might be something special - a cup tie, a league decider. However, sometimes, you'll go along to a regular game and see something absolutely magical which justifies every £15 entry fee and delayed Scotrail train.
It's exactly why I'll never forget Tade from Two Yards.