BY IAIN COLLIN –[email protected]_sport
HEARTS legend Rudi Skacel admits he is excited by the prospect of facing arch enemies Hibs again after signing for Championship outfit Raith Rovers.
The Czech Republic has been joined by former Aberdeen striker Declan McManus in penning a 12-month deal at Stark’s Park yesterday and confessed the Tynecastle connection was ‘key’ in him returning to Scottish football.
The 37-year-old earned the devotion of the Hearts fans during a first spell in Gorgie that culminated in him netting during the Scottish Cup success of 2006.
A man-of-the-match display and a double in the 2012 rout of Hibs in the Scottish Cup final six years later then earned him legendary status and he often proved the scourge of the Easter Road outfit during his three years across the capital.
The former Slavia Prague, Marseille and Southampton attacker insisted his focus is now firmly on trying to bring success to his new club.
However, he has confessed he and manager Gary Locke will relish coming up against league favourites Hibs after teaming up again in Fife.
He said: “It’s definitely another challenge for me and the gaffer was very important. I feel from the club and from the gaffer that he really, really wants me over here and that is very important for a player to hear that.
“It’s always nice to be here in Scotland. I think British football suits me and hopefully it will be a good season.
“The most important thing was that I had worked with the manager before.
“I know Lockey, Lockey knows me and this was key for me. He knows what he can expect and how I can help him, and how he can help me.
“I trust him and I’m glad I can work with him again.
“Maybe there will be some bigger excitement than for the other guys, it’s a small derby for us.
“But I’m focused on Raith Rovers and helping them and we need to get a good start and maybe surprise a couple of teams.
“Our target again will be to be as close as possible to the play-offs. That’s why I’m here, I want a big challenge, and I believe we have a decent team.”
Whilst Skacel has penned a permanent deal, 21-year-old McManus has arrived on loan from Fleetwood Town after netting five times in 17 appearances during a third temporary spell at Morton last season.
And Locke has paid tribute to two benefactors, Colin Smart of Kingdom Homes and Stuart Couser of Fife Letting Service, for coming up with the money to allow him to recruit the pair.
Locke said: “We’re delighted with the help we’ve had to sign these two guys because without that we couldn’t have made these signings.
“It’s brilliant we’ve managed to secure two players I didn’t think we could have got. They were on our radar most of the summer but we just felt financially we couldn’t get them in.
“But, luckily, because of Colin and Stuart, we’ve managed to do the deals and hopefully both of these players can add goals to the team.”