Football binds people to their home town like few other activities. Expats and those living locally share a passion for Raith Rovers that the vicissitudes of history cannot dim - historian John Litster charts the club's origins and fortunes and suggests 'the Rovers' will likely remain, a source of solace, frustration and occasional ecstasy for generations of fans.
In depth written study
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EVERY EMOTION FROM PAIN TO PRIDE
A HISTORY OF RAITH ROVERS FOOTBALL CLUB
There have been many occasions over the past fourteen decades when Langtonians have been justly proud of the exploits of their senior football club as it grew from the dominant junior team in the town in the late 1880s, to Fife Cup winners in the early 1890s, closely followed by a succession of East of Scotland cup victories and League championships in regional competitions.
The townsfolk cheered as Raith Rovers became the first Fife club to enter the Scottish Football League in 1902, and then brought to the Kingdom for the first time the prestigious Scottish Qualifying Cup five years later. In 1913, they became the first Fife Club to reach the Scottish Cup Final, three years after their election to the top division of Scottish League football.
Successes on the national stage required help from beyond the Burgh boundary and the Club, and Kirkcaldy, welcomed incomers who enriched Raith Rover’s history. The trade depression after the Great War, which severely affected the heavily industrialised town, could be briefly forgotten on a Saturday afternoon thanks to a team which finished third in the First Division in 1922, its highest ever league placing.
Captain of Club and Country Dave Morris came from Midlothian, centre forward Tom Jennings arrived from Lanarkshire, as did a year later one of Scotland’s greatest ever players, Alex James. The 1930s was equally grim for the town’s prosperity, although the 1937/38 team scored 142 goals in 34 League games – a British record which stands to this day. After the Second World War came a golden period in the Club’s history, gilded by great players such as Willie McNaught from Dumfries, Andy Leigh from Rothesay, and from the central Fife coalfields Andy Young and Jim Baxter, another all time great Scottish footballer.
Nothing however compared with the joy and pride which burst from the people of Kirkcaldy when its football team captured one of the three major trophies in Scottish football by beating Celtic in the League Cup Final on 27th November 1994. One of the stars of that side was Colin Cameron, born and brought up in the town, who went on to play 28 times for Scotland and win further honours in the game with a succession of major clubs, but whose football career started in the same manner as the club 111 years earlier – kicking a ball about in the Links area of Kirkcaldy.
Colin Cameron’s presence on the pitch that afternoon, and his influence on the final result, personified the pathway to Ibrox Park of the triumphant supporters, whose fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers’ support of the Club stretched all the way back to 1883, when Peter Donaldson and his youthful friends from Links Street played their first match as Raith Rovers on the flat ground in front of Peter Purves’ Sunday School on Sands Brae (now the Esplanade).
Ten thousand spectators with Kirkcaldy connections were at Ibrox that afternoon, with tens of thousands more watching the live television coverage of the match in their living rooms. They did so because of the energy, ambition and smeddum, of the young boys living in Links Street in 1883 who organised themselves to play this new team sport. Over the next decade they grew up with the Club and set it on its century long path to Cup glory, consequently representing Scotland in a European football competition; a Football Club that a famous old town could be justly proud of.