The regular sight of runners and dog walkers and the distinct smell of frying haggis were noticeably absent as the early morning sun lit up the picturesque Kirkcaldy Bay. It was safe to say that the good folk of Kirkcaldy were feeling somewhat worse for wear after celebrating their beloved Raith Rovers’ highest league finish for the first time in more than a century.
Rovers manager Robí di Lathamé had promised his young squad – whose oldest player was just 24 at the end of the 2023/24 campaign – a night out with the fans, and he wasn’t one to back out of a promise. And it seemed the entirety of Fife had turned out to celebrate their heroes who not only qualified for the Europa League but also reached the final of the Betfred Cup and the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.
To summarize the ridiculous over-achievement, Raith still go into every match as underdogs and most of the squad are assessed as ‘leading Championship players.’ Yet they managed to finish third in the Premiership!
As a result, the Tennent’s had flowed freely as, worryingly, did the whiskey, as the players and staff joined their supporters on a heavy bar crawl around Kirkcaldy. And the liquor continued to flow as di Lathamé sat down with chairman Robbie McGinn and assistant manager Alan Irvine to assess the season just gone.
Irvine, who had been instrumental in Raith’s remarkable rise in the previous season, was absolutely off his face as he presented his assessment of Raith’s key performers and Premiership team and player stats.
Raith key performers
Loanee striker Ryan Cassidy was again our star man, scoring twice as many goals as any other player at the club. He racked up 24 goals in 49 appearances, despite a spell of going 20 hours without scoring!
He was followed by fellow loanee Jake Cain, who scored 12 and assisted 15, which is a new Raith record. 21-year-old striker Marc Parkinson chipped in with 11 goals, but went 11 matches without scoring to end the season. Not ideal. Loanee Armstrong Oko-Flex scored eight, most of which were penalties, while loan centre-back Zach Medley and young striker Marc Roscoe both scored seven.
Midfielder and captain Dylan Tait also impressed, scoring five and assisting 11, getting the top average rating of 7.38, and setting a new club record of nine player of the match awards.
Tait, who played every league game this season, took home the fans’ player of the season award for the first time with 45% of the vote, followed by Cain (26%) and Medley (18%), who is out of contract this summer but wants way more than we can afford. Tait, who’s still only 22, also won young player of the season.
Oko-Flex racked up a ridiculous 20 yellow cards and was one of five players to receive a red card.
Tait was also honoured with the Scottish Football Writers’ young player of the season award, capping a fantastic season for the midfielder who is apparently close to being our first player to be called into the Scotland squad.
Away from the players, I took a clean sweep of Player’s Manager of the Year and Writers’ Manager of the Year. Result!
Premiership team stats
Coming third in the league is a ridiculous achievement, but we also scored the third-highest amount of goals with 61 – some way behind Celtic’s 88. We also had the best cross completion ratio of 24%, created the second-most chances of 98 only behind Celtic’s 118, the best shots on target ratio of 25%, and joint-best conversion rate of 10%. We racked up the second-best possession in the league, with our average of 55% only bettered by Dundee United’s 56%.
However, we conceded twice as many goals as both Celtic and Rangers and had the sixth-best defence in the league, leaking 49 goals in 38 games. That included a league-high 11 conceded from indirect free-kicks and six penalties.
However, we once again had the most bookings in the league with 89 – although that was well down on last season’s tally of 100 – and the second-highest tally of three red cards. Interestingly, the top three sides all had the highest tallies of dismissals. Unsurprisingly, we also committed the most fouls of 597 – 72 more than nearest challenger Dundee.
But a key statistic to put all of this into context is the massive lack of finances we have in comparison to the rest of the league. Our annual salary of £1.29 million is the lowest in the entire league, with the next lowest being 10th-placed Livingston on £1.72 million. Champions Celtic, in comparison, spend £47.1 million per annum on wages, while Rangers spend £30.12 million.
Premiership player stats
Cassidy finished the season as the second-highest goalscorer in the Scottish Premiership. His tally of 18 league goals was only bettered by Celtic’s Borja Mayoral, who scored 24, and he finished the campaign with the best shots on target ratio in the league of 66%.
Cain finished as the ninth top scorer with 10 league goals, but he’s off to Dundee United on a free transfer next season as we couldn’t afford his wages! While Cain and Tait were among four players to amass the second-most assists of eight, only behind Celtic’s Roberto Alvarado’s 11.
Tait also racked up the third-most key passes (76), Cain created the second-most chances (18) and Tait the sixth-most with 14. While loanee left-back Joshua Willis completed the most crosses with 33% from 37 matches and made the second-most key tackles in the league, a category in which the rest of our starting back four also made the top ten.
A look around Europe
Away from Scotland, Barcelona retained La Liga after Real Madrid won the previous two titles and Inter made it three years without a title for Juventus. Man City won the 7th consecutive Premier League, PSG won a 6th straight Ligue 1 and Bayern won a 12th straight Bundesliga.
Lyon won the Europa League on penalties after a 0-0 against Dortmund, and Real Madrid won the Champions League for the first time in the save with a 2-1 victory over previous winners PSG.
Join us next time as we attempt to strengthen for Raith Rovers’ third season in the Scottish Premiership.