BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTBROKEN Raith Rovers captain Jason Thomson has described relegation from the Championship as the darkest day of his career as he apologised to the club’s supporters for a dismal season.
The Fifers crashed into League 1 in humiliating fashion on Saturday after losing out to part-time Brechin City on penalties at Stark’s Park.
It was the culmination of a disastrous campaign for Rovers, with the malaise beginning under Gary Locke before he was replaced by the divisive, and ultimately ineffective, John Hughes.
There was also a degree of farce involved in their interminable drop down the standings, with midfielder Ryan Stevenson forced to act as a goalkeeper for a league game against Ayr United, all the while Lewis Vaughan – Raith’s own player – was helping Dumbarton achieve Championship safety during an inexplicable loan spell.
However, Thomson, who has been on the books of the Kirkcaldy club since 2012, was in no mood to mitigate their failings and insists the players are ready to hold their hands up for a catastrophic campaign.
And he is adamant no-one should doubt the devastation in the dressing room.
“This is the lowest point I’ve experienced in football,” said a gutted Thomson. “There are no words to describe the feeling in the dressing room after that game and, even now, it still hurts. I just never dreamed it would come to this.
“It is an accumulation of so many things. From the different managers, to the goalkeepers, the signings and a few other things that are probably best left unsaid. People can look at so many factors.
“But I’m not going to point the finger at any one person, or any one thing. We all need to take responsibility.
“The players are the ones who did not pick up enough points. This was never a squad that should have been in that situation, and we will take every bit of the flak we deserve.
“It is a good group of boys – we never had any problems with that in my five years here – and they will all hold their hands up and take their portion of the blame.”
Rovers trudged from the field to a cacophony of jeers on Saturday as supporters vented their anger, with plenty of blame to be shared between boardroom, dugout and the dressing room for a remarkable fall from grace.
Just 12 months have passed since the club were involved in the promotion playoffs under Ray McKinnon’s guidance.
“It is the supporters I feel really sorry for and can only apologise to,” Thomson continued. “They pay their hard earned money into the club, they are the ones who live and breathe Raith Rovers.
“They deserved better from everyone. Nothing I can say will make amends, but all we can do is try to look to the future and come back stronger.”
Following board meetings on Tuesday, it was confirmed that Raith Rovers intend to remain full-time in League 1 and Thomson believes that could prove pivotal as they seek to mastermind an immediate return to Championship football.
The 29-year-old believes Livingston should act as the inspiration, with the Lions bouncing back from relegation at the first time of asking, having retained several senior players and supplemented the squad with young talent.
If anything, they appear to have returned to the second tier in better shape.
“It still feels quick to be talking about next season, as the pain of Saturday is pretty raw,” continued Thomson. “But the reality is that the club will need to do that. We need to get straight back up.
“I think it is important that the club are looking to remain full-time. You look at a side like Livingston – they did that as well and it meant there was a platform to rebuild and get back to the Championship. That needs to be the aim for Raith now.”