David Goodwillie's Raith Rovers signing has ripped the heart out of the club I support

There are few more jarring words in the English language than rape and rapist.

The connotations trigger instant revulsion, a feeling most Raith Rovers fans had on Monday night when, in the dying embers of the January transfer window, the club announced the signing of David Goodwillie.

The reaction was as instant and emphatic as it was predictable.

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The club's social media posts confirming the news were met with an outpouring of anger and disbelief, and quickly followed by the resignations of several club officials, volunteers and the captain of the women's team.

Raith Rovers' decision to sign David Goodwillie has been met with derision from supporters including main club sponsor Val McDermid. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
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That was echoed across the fanbase with many vowing not to return while a player who was ruled to be a rapist in a civil court in 2016 remains on the playing staff.

Val McDermid, the award-winning crime author and renowned feminist who is – sorry, was – Raith's main sponsor, their most high-profile supporter and biggest ambassador, made her views loud and clear.

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Her objection to the "disgusting and despicable move", which included severing her lifelong support of her hometown club, cancelling her sponsorship and ripping up her season ticket, brought widespread acclaim.

It even prompted a response from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who backed her "principled" stance, while TV personality Richard Osman added his support, asking 'what are they thinking?'. It is a question that is difficult to answer.

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David Goodwillie signed for Raith Rovers from Clyde on transfer deadline day. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Raith cannot claim to have been surprised by the reaction. When reports emerged of the potential interest in Goodwillie in late December, Val and many more fans like her made their feelings abundantly clear.

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If the club's decision-makers thought they could slip this in late on transfer deadline day, and that Val and most decent-thinking fans would just lie down and accept it with quiet indignation, then they have been gravely mistaken.

Raith, who paid an undisclosed fee to sign the disgraced former Scotland striker from Clyde, are now left counting the exponentially greater cost to their reputation, which they have worked so hard to establish.

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A one-club town, Raith are a focal point of the Kirkcaldy community and Stark's Park is a base for girls and women's football groups, children's programmes, walking football, and more. This signing is not in keeping with that image.

Their first-team manager, John McGlynn, has a reputation as a thoroughly decent man, and rightly so. His decision to pursue the player has been clouded by his football obsession and drive to succeed. After all, Goodwillie is a proven goalscorer and Raith badly need one. But this transcends the game and someone in the corridors of power should have stopped it in its tracks. The buck stops with all of them.

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As a Raith fan who covered the team for The Fife Free Press for 17 years, I am left saddened by the entirely avoidable situation the club has put itself in, and in fear of what the future holds. The club's heart has been ripped out, and I can only hope they do the right thing before it's too late.

For some, the damage may already be beyond repair.

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