RAY McKinnon has insisted he was always committed to becoming Raith Rovers’ new manager, despite his appointment being delayed because of an interview for the St Mirren job.
The former Dundee United and Aberdeen midfielder was unveiled by the Stark’s Park outfit yesterday, ending an almost three-year stint as boss of Brechin City.
The 44-year-old, who also built up a respected reputation during a spell as a coach with the SFA, was one of the candidates considered by St Mirren last week before Ian Murray landed the post with the Buddies.
However, McKinnon is adamant he never saw Raith as second best and is thrilled to have made the move into full-time management.
He said: “I’m delighted and excited, and I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“Everything was agreed last week, the terms and conditions, but there was a wee delay with St Mirren. There was nothing to it, really. I was committed to the interview prior to agreeing terms with Raith and I followed through with the interview, and I am now the Raith Rovers manager. I am delighted and excited about that.”
McKinnon, who will retain the services of Laurie Ellis as coach and has not yet made an appointment as his number two, is understood to have been preferred by Raith to St Johnstone youth coach Alec Cleland and the East Fife manager, Gary Naysmith.
However, Rovers chief executive Eric Drysdale has confessed there were some worries in the Kirkcaldy club that St Mirren could steal the one-time Raith player away from under their noses.
Drysdale said: “There’s always a concern that they could have come up with something we couldn’t compete with, but I was always confident from the discussions I had with Ray last week that he was extremely keen to come here. There was never any doubt at all about that.
“Until such time as everything is signed, sealed and delivered, you’ve always got that wee gnawing doubt that something could go wrong at the last minute. But, thankfully, it hasn’t and here he is.
“St Mirren are coming down to the Championship, obviously, but they are a good size club and it just shows that someone of Ray’s calibre does attract clubs of our kind of size.
“It’s great that he’s decided to come here and we’re really looking forward to working with him.”
McKinnon’s predecessor, Grant Murray, who landed the Ramsdens Cup last year, was sacked at the end of the season after an indifferent campaign in which Rovers were stuck in mid-table in the Championship.
In a second tier that will definitely include Hibernian and St Mirren, and will also have either Rangers or Motherwell, it would seem that securing a play-off spot would satisfy supporters and directors alike next season.
However, McKinnon, who was yesterday beginning to meet players after being left with a squad of just 15, including youngsters, steered clear of setting unrealistic targets for himself and his team.
Asked about his reasons for joining Rovers, he added: “It’s quite simple. Raith play in a higher league. It’s a very competitive league that Raith Rovers will be in next season.
“It will be a test, it will be a challenge, and that’s what I’m here for, to test myself and have that challenge. It was a no-brainer, to be fair.
“The aim now is the same as at any other club or the same as any other manager has and that is to do the best you can.
“You want to finish as high as you possibly can. I’m not going to make any ridiculous targets. I’ve never done that and I never will. We’ll see how we go and, hopefully, we can put together a strong enough squad to do well in the Championship.
“We’ll not be making ridiculous statements about winning the league or winning the Scottish Cup and getting into Europe.
“But I’m ambitious, the club’s ambitious, so if we can marry those two and put the right type of player out onto that park, then hopefully we can do the best we can.”