Paquito relishing his dual role at Raith Rovers

RAIN is coming down sideways, the icy wind strong enough to knock Rick Waller off his feet and Paquito is snuggled into so many layers that all that peeks out above the high collars and puffy jacket is a conspicuous sun tanned face.

The weather may be one of the downsides to the Raith Rovers player/assistant manager’s adventure, but the smile tells you that while his sun-soaked features may look out of place, the Granada-born midfielder feels very much at home.

And that is important to a player who is part of a dying breed, understanding loyalty and wise enough to realise that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Prior to signing for Raith Rovers, originally as a player, midway through last season, the previous nine years had been dedicated to Las Palmas, the club he supported as a boy but never dreamt he’d be good enough to play for.

It was with their blessing that he departed for foreign shores, intent on making the most of his final few playing years, both professionally and personally. It was a journey of discovery which led him to Stark’s Park and when Antonio Calderon was appointed manager in June, it also afforded him the opportunity to dabble in coaching, a route he may yet travel along when his playing days are over, without having to hang up his boots just yet.

" This kind of thing is not possible in Spain, where a manager is a manger and the assistant manager is the assistant manager. And the players just play. But I am very pleased to do both. It is very different but I’m very happy."

That latter part of the sentence is a running theme when discussing the 33-year-old’s life at the moment. Whether pertaining to the weather, the football, the scenic backdrop or learning a new language, Paco is a man content with is lot. Used to year-round summer and temperatures of at least 23 degrees, he admits he could do without the cold he claims burrows into his bones and forces him to wear gloves as part of his playing uniform for most of the season, but rain is merely considered a necessary evil as he views the Scottish scenery through tourist’s eyes.

"Because in Las Palmas it is 23 degrees or more all year, it is very dry and brown, but Scotland is so beautiful - it’s lovely and green and so different from home and I love exploring it. I try to enjoy everything about my life here," says the skilful play-maker the Fife fans have taken to their hearts.

The soggy conditions may make for a picture-postcard backdrop but it renders beautiful football that bit tougher to produce. Having been with Las Palmas as they worked their way up from the Spanish Second Division to the Primera Liga and developed something of a cult status in the process, this shy and humble man has shared the pitch with some gifted players. Surely a far cry from the Scottish Second Division.

"Football, like Scottish life, is different but I enjoy it. I knew what kind of football was played here. In Las Palmas we play short passes and slow or different paces but here it is played at a faster pace and it’s a privilege for me to be able to play different football. For me it is not better or worse, just different.

"You grow up with one type of football and we play on the beach with friends every day. Here, there is a lot of quality but less technical ability and that’s because players in Scotland have a big problem - the weather. Today, for example, we couldn’t train too much because the pitch was too soft and covered in water. We would never have that problem in Las Palmas."

A graduate from Las Palmas University in physical education, Paquito is an avid sports fan. And having grown up with the opportunities and a family and a climate that promotes participation in sport, he is a adept at water sports and tennis as well. Admitting he may not have a boisterous enough temperament to manage at a high level, he says he would prefer to coach children or perhaps even teach.

"I love all sport and I studied to teach while I was playing. I don’t know what I will do but for now I am with Antonio and Raith Rovers."

The strength of feeling for Raith, who are now most people’s favourites for promotion to the First Division, is shared by others who have passed through its doors. Nacho Novo and Didier Agathe, despite moving on to bigger things, are still regular visitors to their old stomping ground and Paco seems to understand why. Like the Scottish castles that captivate millions of tourists every year, it’s the tradition of the club that lures but at Stark’s Park it is the close-knit atmosphere that really grips.

"My first impression was of a good stadium and of course I knew about them being in the UEFA Cup and about Bayern Munich. I could smell a good club. I like the tradition, it has been here since 1883, my club Las Palmas only since 1949. I feel really good here, I like the gaffer, the chairman, the fans - in fact I like my team-mates and everyone at the club. And to me, after nine years at Las Palmas and because things are so different, that is very important."