Title celebration marks the end of arduous journey for Davidson

WHEN Iain Davidson receives the Second Division trophy this afternoon, it will represent the culmination of a long journey for the Raith Rovers midfielder. He arrived back in his home town almost five years ago to be greeted with a split dressing room and a manager who was out of his depth. Nowadays, Stark's Park is buzzing and manager John McGlynn has restored credibility to a club that was on its knees.

Talk of the Claude Anelka era sends a shiver down the spine of any Raith supporter, but the club can finally put it to bed as they return to the First Division after four seasons in Scottish football's third tier.

After twice suffering heartbreak in the play-offs, the Kirkcaldy club sealed the title with victory at Hampden Park last weekend while closest rivals Ayr United could only draw at home to Alloa. With a bumper crowd expected at Stark's Park this afternoon, Davidson for one is looking forward to the celebrations.

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"It's a very, very nice feeling. It has been a long time coming but I think we thoroughly deserve it this year as we have been the best team in the league. Everyone deserves it and there has been a great buzz in the dressing room since Saturday. We are in football to win trophies so it is an amazing feeling and hopefully there is more to come.

"It will be great to lift the trophy and hopefully we can get the right result as well to make it even sweeter. It will be the first time I've lifted a trophy as captain and as league champions so I'm looking forward to it.

"Personally I thought the title race would go to the last week. We had to take care of ourselves and we thought Ayr would do the same. I think the pressure would have been massive if it had come down to today and we were more than happy to do it a week early."

Unfortunately for Davidson, life hasn't always been a bed of roses at the club. He is the only remaining player from the Anelka era which saw the club relegated from the First Division. Having made wild predictions he could turn Rovers into Scotland's third force, Anelka lasted a matter of months before he was replaced by Gordon Dalziel. Davidson admitted his early days at the club were tough and that it has been a long road to recovery.

"You don't want to look back and Claude Anelka had great ideas but we know now that he came nowhere near to doing what he said he would. I was part of the team that got relegated but I just wanted to make sure that I did my upmost to get the club back up. Now I've got a league title on my CV and we're back where we belong.

"Sometimes I wondered what I'd let myself in for when I first joined," Davidson admitted. "No disrespect to the players that were there but they weren't good enough and you could see that in training.

"Dave Martin was part of the coaching team at the time and there were two languages being spoken in the dressing room – French and English – and it wasn't a happy place to be. I felt that I had had a good football education at Sunderland and even though I was still young when I came to Raith I could tell it just wasn't going to work out. As an individual he (Anelka] didn't have the criteria and the knowledge and the players simply weren't good enough. That was proved by the fact we were relegated.

"He didn't last too long however and the coaching situation was changed quickly when Gordon Dalziel came in. Everyone knows he was a legend as a player, but it didn't quite work out for him as manager."

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Having grown up in Kirkcaldy, Davidson returned north of the Border after his short spell in England but he admits to having had divided loyalties as a youngster.

"I grew up in the area but I wouldn't say I was a diehard fan. I went to a game now and again but I was a Celtic fan and watched them with my uncle. He got me into them from an early age but when I couldn't get to Parkhead I would be watching Raith Rovers. As you get older you realise it is important to support your local side.

"No matter what club you play for you have to work as hard as you can and that has always been true for me regardless of where I've been. I think any fan that sees you giving 100 per cent will respect you and that's what I try to do. Whether you are local or not, you have got to go out and give it your best.

"I would like to think I have a good relationship with the fans. I get on well with the majority of them and most of them are complimentary. I always come across one or two that don't like me but I had this conversation with the manager and he said Robbie Neilson had the same thing at Hearts.

"If I wasn't giving my best then I'd agree with them but I've been here for five years now so I must be doing something right."

The atmosphere at the club today couldn't be any different to the dark days Davidson experienced when he first joined and he attributes that to McGlynn. In his first job as manager, the former Hearts assistant has clearly impressed his captain.

"I can't speak highly enough of John McGlynn," Davidson said. "He has transformed the club. It was a case of going back to basics when he came in. The players that are at the club now are much better than those that were here when he arrived and they all work so hard and we've shot up the table as a result.

"He even drives the minibus to Dalgety Bay for training and sometimes he is his own worst enemy because he doesn't let anyone in. He's a workaholic and he deserved to win the title."

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Although Davidson and his team mates are focused only on celebrating their title win, he is confident that the club can hold their own in the First Division.

"Our main objective for next year will probably be to consolidate but I'm sure the gaffer will have other ideas and his own big plans. We're looking forward to the big games against the likes of Dunfermline and Dundee as we've got fed up playing the same teams over and over again and we don't want to come back down.

"The gaffer is an ambitious person and I know I want to play in the SPL and I'm sure the rest of the players do as well. We've got a lot of good players and if you believe in yourself anything is possible. We have the history and the fan base behind us and there is no reason why we can't get back to the Premier League. We will enjoy the moment just now, have a holiday and then get back to the hard work."