BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
BARRY SMITH insists the lure of full-time football allied with the challenge of revitalising Raith Rovers ensured a switch to Stark’s Park was too good to turn down.
Smith, 43, was yesterday confirmed as John Hughes’ successor in Kirkcaldy, penning a two-year deal to join the club from local rivals East Fife.
It completes a remarkable journey for ex-Dundee, Alloa and Aldershot Town gaffer Smith, who was working as a journalist with the Dundee Evening Telegraph just 12 months ago before taking the reins at Bayview in December.
After narrowly missing out on a place in the League 1 playoffs in his 23 matches in charge of the Methil men, Smith has now achieved his ambition to return to full-time football, with Rovers tasking him with rebuilding from the ashes of an ignominious relegation.
“My objective was always to get back into full-time football,” said Smith. “I’m very grateful to East Fife for giving me the opportunity to get back into the dugout but they knew from the very start that my objective was to return to full-time football.
“If that chance came up then I was always going to look at it.
“I’m here to stabilise the club and be positive. What has gone is gone, it’s about what we can do in the future. That’s all I can look after.
“Getting an air of positivity back here is massive. There was disappointing last year, but I must focus on this coming year – and the players need to do that as well.
“If anything we need to use that disappointment as motivation to get back to the top end of that league.”
Having spent the second half of last season managing in the third tier, Smith largely knows what to expect from a competitive division which will include promotion-chasing Alloa and full-time rivals Ayr United and Airdrieonians.
Nevertheless, Smith is acutely aware that only promotion will satisfy the Rovers faithful.
“I think that will be expected, that is natural after being in the Championship for so long,” added Smith.
“It is a very difficult league with three full-time teams, coupled with Alloa – who had a great season – and other teams that are trying to get the right blend.
“However, I’ve got to be confident coming into a full-time league that we have the players and knowhow to get out of this division.
“I know the league, which is a massive plus, and I know the teams and the players. I also know the players I need to bring in because you need to bring in a certain calibre of player who knows the division.
“But there is a good nucleus of players here and, if we add to that, then it should all be positive.”
Smith, meanwhile, has confirmed that he will look to appoint a player/assistant manager to assist him at Rovers as he juggles assembling a coaching staff with budget constraints brought on by relegation.
He will also hold talks with Raith stars in the coming days as he ascertains who will be returning to play a part in their League 1 title push. The club currently have nine players signed up for next term.