Roth Raivers | Part 27: Felipe Anderson + Wonderkids = Title Defence

Raith Rovers’ players had etched their names into the history books and the club’s folklore by winning its first-ever Scottish Premiership title and becoming the first non-Old Firm champions for 42 years.

The first transfer window after our title win was dominated by more loan signings from England, including returns for Godwin Uzeh, Colin Rebello and Callum Wigley. However, the pick of the bunch was the incredible looking Uruguayan wonderkid striker Nicolás Baldi from Chelsea.

We also snapped a couple of free transfers in former West Ham winger Felipe Anderson (despite being 34) and exciting former Liverpool player Ash Nolan to add quality in wide positions.

Title defence begins

We began the season in style with potentially our best performance yet, getting our revenge on a ten-man Rangers with a 5-0 thumping inspired by Anderson, Nolan and a Grzegorz Jakubowski brace. Then we ended our Greenock Morton hoodoo with Anderson creating one for Jakubowski then scoring twice himself in a 4-0 away win. What a signing!

Excitingly, Baldi bagged a brace on his full debut in a 3-0 win at home to Aberdeen then another in a 4-1 win at Dundee United, which extended our perfect start.

Champions League wins!

This strong start set us up for Raith Rovers’ first ever win in the Champions League as we dismantled KSV Roeselare with a Willie Binnie penalty, screamers from Nolan, Rebello and the pick of the bunch from Cranston. That was followed up with a famous 1-0 in Sevilla sealed by the impressive Rebello after Mason Mount missed a penalty.

We had Phil Fitzgerald sent off after 10 minutes at home to Porto but claimed a plucky point, then were unlucky to lose 2-1 in Portugal. A draw in Belgium set up a huge decider with Sevilla, who scored with their only two shots on target but we edged past them 4-2 with late Jakubowski and Baldi goals.

Second League Cup success

The evergreen Anderson took us to 12 games unbeaten with a stunning brace in a 4-1 win over Greenock. As a result of our good form, Willie Binnie and Alex Simpson both earned their first caps for Scotland. It also took us to another League Cup Final. Despite being dominated by Rangers, Baldi won it for us with a late tap-in following a shocking goalkeeper error. And that sealed our second League Cup in three years, having reached four of the last five finals!

Flying league form

The result of this stunning start to the season – with a League Cup win, 15 games unbeaten and Champions League qualification – was a bumper new contract from the Raith board. It took my wage from £7,500-per-week to £17,500-per-week until 2032.

The boys celebrated with 3-0 wins against Ross County and Ayr United then 5-0 against Hearts, in which captain Dylan Tait scored a hat-trick having not previously scored all season! Celtic drew at Rangers to take us into the winter break four points clear and undefeated.

2028 began with ‘smashing’ our transfer record by signing 18-year-old Colombian striker Alfredo Piscitella for £1.5 million. He was joined by fellow 18-year-old Colombian centre-back Iván Restrepo.

On the pitch, the relentless nature of our form continued to mid-February, when a 4-0 thumping at Celtic ended a 26-match unbeaten run. That took us into the Champions League knockout stages against Man City, in which we lost a thriller 4-3 at home then I had to rest all 11 starters for a huge title decider and we lost 9-0!! Elsewhere, Celtic somehow knocked out Inter!

Our assault on the title got back on track by beating Ross County and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Motherwell (yep, they just hired him!). Three games in five days (ridiculous) saw two league games in three days after the City second leg. The first was huge as Celtic came to town and we got the perfect start as Glen Cranston scored from an Anderson corner then Nolan nipped in for a second just before the break. They got one back to make it interesting a minute later but Binnie banged home a penalty to settle the nerves. This huge win moved us 9 points clear with even games remaining.

A tired squad nicked a 1-0 win at Hearts two days later, while Celtic again slipped up at Greenock with a draw. But we went and lost 1-0 at home to Dundee while Celtic beat Rangers. That took us into the league split 8 points clear, with the first game of it at home to Celtic. Anderson teed up Baldi’s powerful finish then our former loanee Niall Quinn equalised before half-time (of course he did). They then took the lead just after half-time and had a player sent off, which enabled us to nick a late equaliser through Jakubowski.

Anderson’s 4th minute goal earned a 1-0 win at Dundee, which put the title two points away. A quiet first-half was forgettable but Anderson slid in Baldi to tuck home the opener. Another stellar defensive effort held them at arm’s length for a 1-0 win that ensured we defended our title.

Raith Rovers were Champions of Scotland for a second time!

We finished the season with 89 points, a huge 11 clear of Celtic and 18 ahead of Rangers. We lost just three times, hugely increased our goalscoring prowess to 80 and conceded just 21.

Baldi was second in the Top Goalscorer award with 16 goals in 33 games, only bettered by Celtic’s Ahmed Kutucu’s 17 in 32. Cranston got the second-most assists with 10 and the third-highest average rating in the league of 7.35. Cranston also came third in the Football Writers’ Player of the Year and we had seven players in the team of the year.

Special mention has to go to Felipe Anderson who, like Raphael Varane last season, was the sole experienced player in our squad and led by example. He was our third-top scorer and got the second-most assists, racking up 14 goals and 13 assists in 40 appearances in all competitions – making his final season of his career arguably his best!

Baldi scored 24 goals in all competitions, followed by Jakubowski’s 17, Anderson’s 14 then Nolan with 12 and Cranston with 10. Cranston led the way with 15 assists, then Anderson with 13, Nolan with 12, and Rebello and Wigley with 8.

In other news, our six season loanee Ryan Cassidy was the second top scorer in the Premier League with 17 goals in 38 appearances for Watford! And our second title win pushed us above Rangers to become the second most reputable team in Scotland for the first time.

This highly successful season, in which we wrapped up a second successive Scottish title, won a League Cup and qualified for the Champions League knockout stages, is probably the last full blog in the Roth Raivers save. I’ve really enjoyed this save as it’s a little different from the usual saves where money is all that matters. Our biggest fee of this entire save has been £1.5 million and we’ve worked with minimal finances throughout, with the focus more on developing young talent and snapping up bargains.

Thank you to anyone and everyone who has read the Roth Raivers series and I hope you enjoyed reading about it! And stay tuned for more content very soon with FM21 upon us.


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