Laurie Ellis is a man who needs no introduction.

Having first joined Raith Rovers in the late 1990s, Laurie’s association with the club spans more than 10 years across three separate spells in Kirkcaldy – punctuated only by time away from Stark’s Park with St. Mirren, Stirling Albion and Cowdenbeath.

“The first club you do your apprenticeship at gives you that grounding in senior football that will always be the most special club to you because without that you’re nobody and you don’t move anywhere after that.”

“That first club is always so special and the fact that I’ve got connections in Kirkcaldy as well.  My mum grew up in Kirkcaldy and went to Kirkcaldy

Laurie in action

High School and I used to visit Kirkcaldy loads as a kid to visit my gran and often come to Stark’s Park, sometimes as a neutral and sometimes to watch Hearts. All those different connections just meant that I always had a real affinity with the club and from day one I seemed to generate a good rapport with the fans and all those things merged into one and just always meant that I felt happy coming back.”

Over a decade after first joining Raith Rovers Laurie was, in the eyes of many people connected to the club, justifiably awarded a testimonial game.

In an era where top-level football is allegedly dominated by money, it is rare for one man to spend a decade with the same club.

Laurie’s testimonial was against his boyhood team Hearts and in a match that was John McGlynn’s first game in charge of the Tynecastle side after leaving Stark’s Park.

2907 fans turned out to honour the man many regard as ‘Mr Raith Rovers’ on a day Laurie will never forget.

“It was magical.  It was great because the whole occasion couldn’t have gone any better and the circumstances surrounding John McGlynn playing a big part in my Raith Rovers career and then getting a very well-deserved move to Hearts.”

“For his first game back at Stark’s Park to be my testimonial, you just couldn’t have written it. It was a really special day, not just for myself.  My family and my friends were over in numbers and they’ll not forget that day for a long time. I’ve got a lot of special photographs from it and it was just really special.  It was a great occasion, and I’ll be forever indebted to Ally Gourlay and his testimonial team who organised it.”

Last Saturday’s return to league duty against Greenock Morton was typical of the type of performance Raith Rovers fans have become used to seeing this season – play well for 90 minutes but get that all too familiar last-second kick in the teeth.

“I think Morton had probably the better part of the game. We set up to be wide when we could and to attack them, but the way that they play when they get a hold in the game it can force you back and we maybe didn’t get out and play as fluently as we can play.”

One of the more noticeable features of the game against Morton was the performance of the Cappielow side’s midfield maestro, Fouad Bachirou.  Saturday wasn’t the first time Bachirou has impressed against Raith, something Laurie knows all too well.

“We’ve played against Bachirou quite a lot.  He’s a decent player. He’s a menace running into the box.  With Martin Hardie coming into their team and sitting a little bit deeper it’s given him a bit more of a licence to go and support the attacks. His (Bachirou) runs are well-timed, he’s quite sharp, he’s got quite nice touches and he’s a tricky player to play against.”

Partick Thistle is a team that, certainly this season, have given The Rovers multiple headaches.

The 3-0 September defeat at Firhill in the Ramsden’s Cup is not a game Rovers fans will be dipping into the archives to relive any time soon.

Although the 1-1 league draw three weeks after the cup game gave Raith a valuable point. The game also provided another one of those ‘if only’ moments with, Thistle sub, Kris Doolan finding the net against The Rovers yet again.

Laurie expects another hard game against The Jags back at Firhill tomorrow.

“Whether we’re going to Partick, Morton, Dumbarton, Airdrie or anyone these First Division games are all difficult.  They’re all hard battles and at this time of year every team knows how important it is to stabilise their season and make sure they’ve got good targets in sight for the second half of the season.”

“Every team in the division finds it hard to play against Partick because they’re very attack-minded.  They’ve got great assets in the wide areas, they’ve got good players centrally as well and they’re really hard to break down at the back.”

“We like challenges and we’re looking to improve on our performances against Partick this season, but we look to do that in every game.”

Arguably one of Laurie’s finest moments in a Raith Rovers jersey came in the 2010 Scottish Cup quarter-final tie against Dundee at Dens Park.

Laurie Ellis

Rovers fans all over the world still talk about the magic conjured up during the entire cup run in the 2009/10 season – overcoming Peterhead then Airdrie United in replays and needing two bites at Aberdeen before seeing off The Dons in a famous giant-killing at Pittodrie before the last eight draw sent Raith over the Tay Bridge to face a Dundee side who, at the time, sat top of the First Division table.

The epic journey ended at Hampden in a 2-0 semi-final defeat against Dundee United, but it is Laurie’s flying header 10 minutes into the game at Dens that epitomised the battling performance at Dens that day.

“I remember a lot about it.  I remember it was Eddie Malone that was marking me.  I remember just managing to check a run and get a few yards on him. The ball was right on my button and I think big Rab Douglas was still ready to jump by the time the ball hit the back of the net.  It was just one of those moments where everything was perfect and it was in the back of the net before you could shout.”

Laurie’s Raith Rovers journey took on a new adventure during the summer when he stepped into the role of player-coach, a challenge Laurie is very much enjoying.

“It’s a massive change.  It’s hard enough when you finish playing to go into coaching and to be a coach at any level, but it’s made even more difficult the fact that myself and Grant are training all the time and trying to get ourselves available for games all the time as well.  It’s been a real challenge, but it’s one that I’m thoroughly enjoying. Grant’s the manager, Paul’s the assistant and they make the big decisions, but we work as a team and I’m there helping Grant through the day.”

Player, coach, Raith Rovers legend – what next?  Who knows, but there really only is one Laurie Ellis.

                                                                                                by Martin Hart

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