The search for John Hughes’ replacement is finally over as Raith Rovers have announced Barry Smith as their new manager.
At a Press Conference this afternoon, held in the Raith Suite at Starks Park, the Kirkcaldy Club’s Chairman Alan Young addressed the assembled media.
“Firstly, as a Board, our objective was to select an individual who would stabilise and progress our Club over the medium-term…possibly, 2, 3, years or even longer, who can work within our established infrastructure, initially with as few upheavals as possible; someone who can hit the ground running, progress speedily to pre-season; someone who can blend our committed players with new signings coming in and someone who can lift the spirits of Raith Rovers Football Club, re-discover confidence and re-ignite enthusiasm and someone who can have us challenging for promotion from a very, very, difficult league” before concluding “This Club previously had 8 years in the Championship – our first objective is to get back there as soon as we possibly can.”
Speaking exclusively to JordanBurtFootball.com, Smith explained the frantic last few days to us.
“It has came about very quickly. I’m grateful to East Fife for allowing me the opportunity to come and speak to Raith Rovers; they allowed me to take this job, basically. The one thing East Fife knew was that if I got the offer of Full-Time football, then, I would have to take a look at it and I’m thankful Raith Rovers have given me the chance to come in here and take this Club forward.”
With Raith’s relegation to League One, it sees them in the same division as Fife rivals East Fife for the first time in nearly a decade. With this in mind, it gave Smith an even bigger dilemma to ponder.
“Full-Time football is something I wanted to do; Raith Rovers are a big Club, it is a challenge, being in League One, because it’s a difficult league but it’s a challenge I’m sure and confident that I am ready to meet,” explains Smith, “The Board will give me their backing in whatever I do to be up there challenging at the top end and we are putting a smile back on the supporters’ faces.”
Smith refused to dwell on the past and is only looking to the future.
“Nobody expected Raith to go down but it is past, it is gone. We now need to focus on the future and the future is the upcoming weeks and getting a squad assembled then making sure we are ready for the first game of the season so we can push ourselves all the way to get back to the Championship.”
Smith’s job begins in earnest with seven under-contract players to speak to, as well as a dozen others who are in limbo over their Rovers’ future.
“I will speak to them all individually and see what their thoughts are. The players who are contracted to the Club, I’m sure they’ll want to be here. The players who are out of contract, we will try speak to everyone who we want to remain here and we will get round to that in the coming days.”
The Rovers players aren’t all unfamiliar to the new boss, with Kyle Benedictus and Iain Davidson both having played under Smith before while they were at Dundee.
“They know my style, they know what type of guy I am – which is an honest, hard-working, guy – and hopefully they’ll relay that message to the guys who don’t already know me but, I’m sure once they get to know me, and they understand where I am coming from, then I’ll get their respect and they’d work hard, like I’d expect any team to.”
After a successful season in the Development League East, Craig Easton and his young group of players will remain at Starks Park and will not be overlooked by Smith.
“We want to use the youth – they are valuable to this Club. But we will have to have a nucleus of a squad that we think are going to be competitive. I’m not going to put a number on it [the size of squad he would like], but, I know ideally what I’d like to be looking at. Craig [Easton] done an excellent job last season – he will remain in charge with them this season and beyound hopefully. We know we can tap into that, if need be, but they’ve got to be of the right standard, that is going to be good enough for the first team squad that I am assembling.”
With the BetFred Cup Draw on Friday, work will need to be done in only a few weeks if Smith is to have a squad ready and prepared in time for the opening, competitive, fixture of the season.
“The pre-season date won’t change from what was set before I came in. They’ll come in, they’ll do their work, it just gives us a shorter time to get the squad assembled, but, I’m not worried about that as I am sure I’ll get the right players in at the right time.”
With two other full-time sides in the division this season – in the shape of Ayr United and Airdrieonians – Smith knows how difficult and challenging this season will be for the Fife side.
“From a Manager’s point of view, you want to get promoted. From Raith Rovers’ point of view, they want to get promoted. That is our objective, but it is going to be a challenging task – but it is one we all feel we are up to.”
Smith concluded by giving this message to the supporters.
“I just want the fans to come back to Starks Park; enjoy watching their team playing and winning, and just having a smile back on their face.”