It didn’t take Grant Anderson long to endear himself to the Raith support this season. He announced his arrival in fine style with a goal and two assists on his competitive debut against Wick and he’s never looked back since. His pace, coupled with an eagerness to run at the defence are attributes that Rovers have lacked at times over the last few seasons, and his ability to deliver a constant supply of crosses during a game has helped Brian Graham and Greig Spence to become two of the most prolific goal scorers in the division.

I caught up with the winger after he and the rest of the squad had made a different type of delivery, handing out Christmas presents during a visit to the children’s unit and hospice at Victoria Hospital much to the kids delight.

Anderson left it reasonably late to break into the senior game, joining Stenhousemuir from Rob Roy in 2010 when he was 23, but his form this season has left some wondering why it took him so long to get noticed. Grant points out though that his career has been a natural progression.

“I’d always played football and tried out with Queen’s Park when I was about 13 but it never really happened for me. I signed for my local under 21 team when I was 16 and played with them right through until I was 21. I never regarded the next step for me as the seniors, for me the next step up seemed to be the juniors and that’s when Rob Roy came in for me. I had a really good first season with them and a decent second term and that’s when I started to hear this and that about signing for teams. Hamilton showed an interest and the deal with them was on and then off, but then one of my coaches at Rob Roy mentioned me to a guy he knew at Stenhousemuir and I decided to go for it with them.”

It didn’t take long for Anderson to acclimatise to the professional game and in an impressive first

season he scored 7 goals in 31 appearances for The Warriors. Whilst some are critical of the standard of junior football, Grant feels that the differences are reasonably subtle,”The way I play my game is going to be the same whatever the level, I’m just going to run as much as I can, work as hard as I can and hopefully the quality comes thereafter. It took me a few games to get up to speed but although folk think that junior football isn’t a good standard, the only real difference I found was in the speed and the tempo. Junior football has talent throughout it, they possibly just don’t produce it at the same speed as the seniors. Once I adjusted to that I was able to get going and I felt I did not too bad, don’t get me wrong, we were nearly relegated that year, but personally I felt I did quite well.”

Grant’s form saw him catch the eye of Billy Reid at Hamilton and he signed for the Accies in 2011 however he wasn’t quite able to recreate the success that he showed the previous term at Stenny,”Its just one of those things, when I went to Hamilton it took me a wee while to get into the team. I was flying in the first few weeks of pre-season training, I felt I was doing brilliant but then after about three weeks or so I started to struggle. It was like my body was toiling to adjust to playing and training every day and I started to sit out bits of training sessions here and there. It kills you when you want to play on a Saturday because Billy Reid’s never going to throw you into a game if he feels your body isn’t up to it. Once I got that sorted though I felt I did okay.”

Although his style of play possibly wasn’t suited to Billy Reid’s philosophy he feels that his time there really improved him as a player,”I’m maybe not their type of footballer. Even this season they’re full of young kids who are fairly small and they keep the ball and pass it for fun whereas I want to get the ball and run at people. That’s my game and its what I do, I’m not really a tidy passer of the ball so I maybe didn’t really suit their system. I feel a better player because of my time there though. I keep the ball a lot better, my awareness isn’t brilliant but its better than what it was, they certainly helped to change my game, maybe not as much as they wanted to but they certainly did and hopefully Raith Rovers are benefiting from it.”

His stop start season at Hamilton meant that he started to doubt if he could produce the goods in the first division week in week out, but the only person he wanted to prove anything to was himself,

“You do start to wonder, I was going out and playing well and then the next week I’d be terrible, I wouldn’t even be able to control the ball. I started to think that I’d never be consistent enough and I doubted myself a bit, once you do that though you can kind of lose your head a bit, you need to have a bit of self confidence and keep going. I think I’ve proven this season that with a run of games I can play consistently at a decent level and I’m really happy with that. I just wish I could add a few more goals to my game. This feels like a real progression for me, at 21 I decided I wanted to play juniors and I managed that then the next step was the seniors. I’ve never went out and said I want to play in the Premier league and aimed for that, I’ve just always wanted to take the next step and if it happens, it happens.”

The next step for him in this instance was to become one of John McGlynn’s final signings and join Raith Rovers just before the former manager left to join Hearts. Its a move that he’s delighted to have made,

“The clubs massive up here and we get a good turnout every week which I like. The fans are brilliant and having that stand out there full of fans is great. They’re not a quiet crowd either, they can be a noisy bunch at times and I really enjoy that.”

The stands will be even more packed when Celtic visit in February and its a challenge that Anderson is relishing,

“When the draw was made I got a few texts saying that we had Celtic and I thought, “well not quite”, Arbroath played well in the first game and you never know, I was hoping that they hadn’t jinxed it. You want to play against the best teams in Scotland and at the moment, with Rangers troubles, they quite clearly are. From now on, whatever happens in my career I can say I played at Celtic Park and to play them again, at home this time will be brilliant.”

The announcement during the week that the game will be live on television only adds an extra element to the fixture, and while some players may take even more pride in their appearance on the day he knows that they’ll all be focused on the tie,

“Having it live on TV makes it more exciting but not anymore nerve wracking. When you’re out there doing your thing it doesn’t really make a huge difference, unless you score a wonder goal and everybody sees it. There could be a couple of new hair cuts floating about for it, certainly there should be, as a couple of the boys are in need of one. In all honesty though we’ll just be focused on the game, It’ll be good. A good occasion and a good one for the club too, it’ll really help them out a lot.”

Focus is something that he feels Rovers need to improve upon if they want to build on their good,
albeit frustrating form this season. The 2 encounters with Partick Thistle have proven that Raith can mix it with the best the league has to offer but conceding late goals has seen the team take just 1 point from them when it could easily have been 4,
“When we want to play we can really play, we’ve proven that by taking them to the last minute both times we’ve played them. Even the first time they equalised in the last few seconds and then the next week the same thing happened to us when we didn’t play quite as well against Dumbarton. It’s just subtle things, you’ve got to concentrate for the full 90 minutes, you cant just sit back with 5 minutes to go and think, right that’s the game won as it can change in an instant.”
“I don’t think we did particularly brilliant in the first half on Saturday but in the second period we did. I thought we did really well and we came right back into it and got it back to 2-2 and as our equaliser went in you just hope that that’s enough or that we could maybe sneak another but we’d put so much effort into it that some of us were just dead on our feet. I was trying to track back in the last couple of minutes and I was just treading water, then when you lose a late goal like that its heartbreaking, it felt terrible.”

Rovers are hoping to get back to winning ways against Dumbarton this weekend but Rovers found it tough against them when they met at Stark’s Park earlier this season,

“We were playing really well at that point and maybe they raised their game a wee bit to play us and we just didn’t raise it enough to play them. Last time we played each other I was going forward in the last minute because I feel that’s what I’m best at but then they counter attacked, you’ve just got to have a bit more concentration and maybe I need to sit in a bit more. We’re certainly going down there hoping to win and we really need to win the game.”

Whilst most people are breaking off from work to eat, drink and be merry over the Christmas period, Grant points out that for himself it’ll be a slightly quieter affair,

“My misses hates it! I’ve never really been a big drinker anyway but I did do it when I played junior but stopped having any at Christmas as soon as I started playing for Stenhousemuir. It doesn’t really bother me because I’m not much of a drinker anyway but my girlfriends on holiday from work so it can be a bit frustrating for her but she understands. I don’t drink at New Year either because

obviously we’ve got games then. We’ll be in training over the festive period as well, we’ll be in Christmas Eve, off Christmas Day and then back in Boxing Day. It’s hard work but I’m doing what I love so its worth it.”

Grant might not be suffering with a sore head over the hectic festive period but there’s sure to be one or two amongst the fans in the stands. If he can continue his rich vein of form and help Rovers to a run of victories starting with Dumbarton, then it could quite possibly be the perfect hangover cure.

Written by Shaughan McGuigan.

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