Last season ended on a sour note for Raith Rovers, with relegation to Ladbrokes League 1 confirmed after a penalty shoot-out defeat against Brechin City. But midfield maestro Bobby Barr is keen to focus on restoring the club’s Championship status…and not on looking back.
Ladbrokes News caught up with the Stark’s Park ace, to discuss the club’s new striking stars, life under manager Barry Smith – and the two clubs he sees as Rovers’ main rivals for the League 1 title next term…
Ladbrokes News: Obviously last season ended on a very low note with relegation to Ladbrokes League 1. But we saw positives along the way – you beat all of Falkirk, Greenock Morton and Dundee United during the season. What are the plus points you can take from a difficult campaign?
Bobby Barr: It’s hard at this stage to focus on the positives, but we did start the season well, with some really impressive results and performances, but things deteriorated and obviously relegation was a disaster.
I’m keen now to try and put that experience behind me, and focus on what we can do this year. Last season’s done, and we can’t change what happened – so I’m looking forward instead.
LN: You had a decent campaign yourself, with two goals and five assists in all competitions. What were you happy with in your own game, and which areas do you think you need to improve on?
BB: I was happy with my performances up to a point. I didn’t think I had a bad year, per se, but I’m disappointed at not chipping in with a few more goals. During the last few months of the season I didn’t get a huge amount of game time, so it was difficult to try and make the impact I wanted to.
Hopefully, I can force my way back into the starting XI ahead of this season and help us make our way back into the Championship!
LN: The club have made several new buys already this summer, including strikers Liam Buchanan and Greig Spence. They’re both guys you’ve faced before. What do you think each of those guys will bring to this Raith squad?
BB: First and foremost, they’ll add goals. They were both prolific for Livingston and Alloa respectively last season, and obviously ‘Bucks’ won promotion with Livi, so that’s valuable experience to have in our squad.
If those guys can repeat the form they each enjoyed last season, I have no doubt we’ll be fighting at the top end of the table. Obviously having faced them both in the past, I know what they’re capable of, and I’m looking forward to linking up with them!
LN: Another thing that’s changed is the man in the managerial hotseat, with Barry Smith replacing John Hughes at Stark’s Park. How do you think the new boss differs from his predecessor?
BB: The new boss has come in from East Fife where he built a very solid side, and he’s been very positive so far. Heading into the season, he’s developed a good vibe in the dressing room, and personally I’m excited about where he can take this club.
LN: Despite a poor away record last year, Rovers actually had the fifth-best home record in the Championship, with 29 points from 18 games. What do you think the key is to maintaining that in League 1? And how big a part will the fans play in helping you achieve that?
BB: Obviously if we’re winning games, the fans will turn up in their numbers – and we had good backing at Stark’s Park for the majority of last season, even though it was a tough season for them.
I’m confident we can take that into League 1, especially with having one of the bigger fanbases in the division. If we can do that and work through the issues that saw us struggle on the road last term, then this will obviously be a successful season.
LN: We’ve got you as 6/5 favourites to win the title in 2017-18. How confident are you and the rest of the squad about doing that? And who do you think will be your main challengers?
BB: I think we’ve got plenty of reason to be confident. Obviously, the way last season ended was very dispiriting, but the manager has brought in some more quality players already this summer, and as one of the few full-time teams in the division, we should have a big advantage in terms of our fitness and energy levels.
As for the other sides challenging, Ayr United will definitely be up there. They’ve strengthened their squad, and have gone full-time. Alloa also know how to win promotion from this division, and came very close last year, so they’re likely to challenge again.
Hopefully, over the piece we’ll have enough to edge those sides out and win the league!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing