There are few players in the current Raith Rovers dressing room that split opinions among supporters in quite the way Joe Hamill does.

There are those who love Joe’s ‘no-nonsense’ style of play and tireless work rate, while on the other side there are those who see fit to have a go at Joe when they think he is having a poor game. Something that Joe, being the battle-hardened player that he is, takes in his stride.

“Everybody gets it.  Maybe some people get it worse than others, but at the end of the day I don’t mind people having their opinions.  What I have a problem with is when it gets a bit personal.”

Joe’s football career to date hasn’t always been easy.  Joe’s journey started out as a young lad at Hearts when Craig Levein was in charge at Tynecastle, before Levein took Joe with him down to Leicester City.

Joe spent just one season at Leicester, making 12 league and a handful of cup appearances before his Hearts mentor was sacked and subsequently replaced by Rob Kelly.

Joe returned to Scottish football in 2006, spending the next 5 years of his career with Livingston and clocking up over 100 league games during his spell at Almondvale, but it is perhaps Livingston’s well-documented off-field financial problems that overshadowed Joe’s time as a Livingston player. “We went a few months without getting paid so I know how it feels.”

Livingston’s demotion to the Third Division led to Joe, like many others at the time, leaving the Almondvale club in search of financial security and first team football, which is where Raith Rovers stepped in – with another of Joe’s mentors from his time at Hearts, John McGlynn, bringing Joe to Kirkcaldy in the summer of 2011 on an initial 2-year contract.

“I’ve known John for over 10 years.  When I was 15 or 16 I started working under John and he has helped me a lot – not just through the football side,

Saturday’s Man of the Match – Joe Hamill

even off it. Then when I moved away from Hearts, I still kept in contact with John.  He did a great job at Raith. I spoke to him when he was linked with a few clubs a few years ago, and he was saying Raith were in his heart and that he couldn’t walk away at that time. Then the Hearts job came up and anybody would have jumped at the chance to take it. None of the boys can say a bad thing about John.  He deserved it so we just hope it goes well for him.”

Livingston is not the only one of Joe’s former clubs to have experienced financial difficulties.  Hearts themselves have hit the headlines in the past weeks, with players being paid late and a winding-up order served to the Tynecastle club just a couple of the issues that have made the back pages as of late. “The players didn’t want paid so they’re doing their bit for the club as well which is good.  It’s not a nice situation to be in but it looks like they’ve sorted something out. It’s just a case of concentrating on the football side of things now.”

The William Hill Scottish Cup hasn’t been nice to Raith Rovers over the past couple of seasons.

Halcyon memories of reaching the semi-final and walking out onto the hallowed Hampden Park turf to play Dundee United on a sun-kissed afternoon in April 2010 were an eternity away when Rovers were crashing out of the cup against Alloa Athletic and Greenock Morton, but having so far seen off the difficult challenges of Airdrie United and Deveronvale and with Celtic or Arbroath coming to Stark’s Park in the Fifth round, there is definitely a feeling that we are in the midst of another magic carpet Scottish Cup run.

“I thought overall we actually done good.  They had a few decent players and they went for it as well, it wasn’t as if they just came down for a draw.  It was tough, but we’re just glad to get through.”

“Everyone is waiting for an upset with a cup game.  You only have to look at Morton and Turriff and also Arbroath going to Celtic and getting a draw. In the game against Deveronvale we didn’t play at our best, but we created enough chances to win the game comfortably.”

Even the most passionate Raith Rovers supporter will admit that Deveronvale produced a fine performance in the cup game last weekend, a sentiment echoed by Joe himself.

“They’re a very young team, with a lot of guys who have been with clubs such as  Dundee, Inverness and Ross County, so they’ve been coached properly as well. They know how to play the game and they’ve been brought up on how to play football, you could tell straight away they were well-organised.”

Tomorrow brings one of those fixtures that Raith Rovers fans love to hate, with Greenock Morton coming to Stark’s Park.

Morton are one of those teams that tend to give us a difficult game but it was an unlikely source who pointed out otherwise.

“Allan Walker told me in the car the other day that we’ve actually got a decent record at home against Morton.”

“They’re a good side and they’ve got a lot of good players.  It’s going to be difficult no matter what but our last few results have been decent so we should be confident as well.”

Joe probably wouldn’t admit it, but he has been blessed to work with the calibre of manager under which he has learned his trade.  Craig Levein at Hearts and Leicester and John McGlynn and Hearts and Raith Rovers, but special praise was reserved for his current gaffer and former Hearts team mate, Grant Murray.

“I’m enjoying working under the gaffer.  He’s stepped into management easy.  He’s obviously played the game and can still play for another couple of years.  He keeps himself fit and he’s done well so far in management.”

Joe is one of many of the current crop of Raith Rovers players playing for his future.  With his original 2-year deal expiring at the end of the season, even Joe himself admits his future isn’t safe.

“It’s playing on my mind a lot.  There’s loads and loads of good players who can’t even get a club, so it is on the back of your mind every time you go and play or train. You always want to do the best as it is, but it’s at the back of your mind that you’re out of contract and you could be basically on your bum next year.”

He may not be every Raith Rovers supporter’s cup of tea, but even at 28, Joe Hamill’s Raith Rovers adventure is still relatively young.

 

                                                                                              by Martin Hart

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