It was safe to say that Robí di Lathamé was enjoying life in Kirkcaldy, despite the relative lack of finances available to him. And it was in such a happy state of mind soaking in the rare rays on Kirkcaldy beach that he received a phone call from chairman Robbie McGinn.
For a change, Robbie sounded very calm and business-like, which reflected the fact that he, unlike the rest of the town, hadn’t been partying all summer. “Robí,” McGinn began, “you know how much myself and the rest of the board respect you for the job you’re doing for the club and the town of Kirkcaldy.” di Lathamé was suddenly a little concerned about where this was going.
“And that’s why we’ve decided to make a significant investment in improving the club’s infrastructure,” McGinn continued, very much putting di Lathamé’s mind at ease. “The building work on the stadium is ongoing and we think the completion of the works will be delayed until October, just to make sure it’s all looking perfect.
“On top of that, we’re spending £5.5 million on brand new training and youth facilities for you and the lads to work from. To support that, we’re also boosting the junior coaching investment and we’ve also enhanced our youth recruitment, which will now be considered ‘Excellent.'”
di Lathamé was floored. “Wow, Mr McGinn, this is incredible!” he managed to utter. “This is amazing news, and could be really beneficial in helping the young players we’ve bringing through really step up.”
“Exactly Robí,” McGinn continued, “We’ll do whatever we can to bring through the best players we can and it’s not gone unnoticed that you’ve led the club to its best ever period in the Scottish Premiership. We’re also very much aware that the stringent Brexit rules have made getting work permits for non-British players a near-impossibility for Raith.”
With that, the pair agreed to meet for a few gin and tonics later that week, once di Lathamé had time to think about his plans for rebuilding for a fourth season in the Scottish Premiership and a second season in Europe.
Summer transfer activity
Ross Munro, our goalkeeper since the first season of the save, departed on a free transfer as we had three exciting hot prospects coming through our youth system. The two stepping up to the first team are Alex Simpson and last season’s academy product Scott Ovenstone, which is a slight risk!
We sold two strikers that haven’t managed to reach Premiership level, with Marc Roscoe joining Hamilton for £175,000 and Mick Turner going to Greenock Morton for £115,000.
Oddly, we didn’t spend a single penny in the transfer window. This was mainly because I couldn’t find anyone worth signing, but also as I was keen to develop youngsters. Four players who did come in were Ryan Cassidy for a fifth(!) loan spell from Watford, left-back Joshua Willis for a third spell, and both midfielder Callum Wigley from Spurs and right-back Godwin Uzeh for second seasons. A new loan signing was the brilliantly named Niall Quinn, a left-winger from Celtic.
I’ve also had a tactical rethink, based on the fact that our holding midfielder is rubbish, we’re strongest in centre midfield, and I want to try and play with some width . And this is the approach I’m going with:
Elsewhere, Celtic sold Karamoko Dembele, who dominated the Premiership last season, to Man City for £31 million. Could they now struggle as a result?
Premiership kicks off
Our first game of 2025/26 was the same as last season, against Falkirk. The first half was a drab affair in which Cassidy missed a couple of chances but we went in goalless. I assertively told them I wasn’t happy and it delivered, as 18-year-old winger Steve Jung crossed for Quinn to score on his league debut. The floodgates opened as Cassidy scored a superb solo strike then Jung scored his first goal for the club to wrap up a 3-0 win. But midfielder Glen Cranston won player of the match with an assist and seven key passes, and the 4-3-3 switch was hailed as a “touch of genius” by our supporters!
We then took on Premiership new boys Ross County and Quinn doubled his tally as we stumbled to a 1-0 win. But two clean sheets out of two and Rangers drew and Celtic lost, which left us top of the league! That didn’t last long as we lost 2-1 at Motherwell, but bounced back with a 3-2 win over Hibernian – who began the game top of the league – in which we threw away a two-goal lead only for Cassidy to nick all three points in injury-time.
We then travelled to Celtic and put up a good fight but lost 1-0, with Cassidy missing a huge late chance. But the striker bounced back with both goals in a 2-1 win over Greenock Morton. That took Cassidy to 13 goals in 14 starts in all competitions! And, that was the final game to be played at Stark’s Park, as the club completed its move to the new 15,571 capacity Raith Stadium.
A legend resurfaces
Anyone who’s read my ongoing Journeyman save will be aware of legendary striker Philip Cohen, who scored goals for fun in my Sporting, Valencia and England teams. We’d snapped up another striker of the same name on a free from Glenavon two years ago, and he was called up to the first team as Cassidy and Parkinson both got injured.
And, wouldn’t you know it, Cohen lived up to his legendary status as he scored in the first minute of his Raith league debut at home to Aberdeen in the first-ever match at Raith Stadium! A second half goal from Wigley wrapped up a big 2-1 win in the first game in our new home.
Cohen was at it again as he scored the only goal against Hearts, in which left-winger Oliver Higgins got a straight red inside 5 minutes against his former club. And he made it four goals in five with a brace in a 4-0 thumping of Falkirk, in which Cranston scored and created two. And our great form continued with a nine-game unbeaten spell that had us competing with Rangers and Celtic at the top of the league.
First win over the Old Firm
An amazing start to the season continued as we finally beat an Old Firm team! It arrived in our 15th match against Celtic in all competitions, but didn’t look like happening as they took the lead on 32 minutes. However, they had a man sent off a minute later and a goal and assist from Wigley, who’s suddenly become known as a Wonderkid, inspired a 3-1 win that put us top of the league!
We rounded out a brilliant 2025 by defeating ten-man Aberdeen 3-0 away from home. We got into the new year two points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership and a huge six points clear of Celtic!
League Cup Final
We reached our second League Cup Final of this save by capitalising on Celtic’s shock exit against Greenock Morton. We defeated Greenock in the quarter-final, which teed up a semi-final against Aberdeen. And young goalkeeper Simpson was the star of the show as he saved a penalty in regular time to earn us a 0-0 draw. And the keeper then saved two penalties in the shootout to book our place in the Final, earning him an 8.1.
In the Final we took on Hibernian, who managed to beat Rangers 1-0 in the semis. We got our noses ahead as Quinn scored in first-half injury-time, but they drew level through Tyreece John-Jules. And it went all the way through extra-time for another penalty shootout. They scored first, then centre-back Willie Binnie missed. But Hibs went and smashed their next two penalties wide, we scored our next three and Simpson stood firm to save their fifth.
Raith Rovers were the 2025 Scottish League Cup winners!!
Europa Conference League
We entered the fourth qualifying round for the Europa Conference League, where we took on Dutch side Vitesse. A 2-1 home win proved the difference as a 0-0 draw in Holland sent us through to the group stages. Plus a cool £2.51 million in prize money. And the group stages drew us with Qarabag, Lugano and Villarreal.
We began with a tough clash at Villarreal, who had former Real Madrid man Isco, now 33, amongst their ranks. However, we got off to a flyer through Dylan Tait screamer, but they levelled through Isco’s penalty and scored a late winner from an Isco corner. But Tait won of the match and, well, what an effort!
We then beat Lugano 2-1 but somehow lost 2-0 to Qarabag despite having 32 shots to their 8. But we bounced back to win 2-1 at the Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan. The good form continued as we somehow managed to beat Villarreal 3-1 with a brace by Quinn, which has to be up there with our best performances of this save! And we backed that up with a 5-1 thumping of Lugano thanks to a Cassidy hat-trick, which sealed qualification and won us the group as Villarreal lost in Qarabag.
Join us next time to see if we can continue our challenge at the top of the Scottish Premiership and how far we can go in the Europa Conference League!