Season 2015 – 16 marks the 40th anniversary of the promotion campaign of the mid-70s, and the 20th anniversary of Raith Rovers first foray into European competition.

 To mark these significant anniversaries in Raith Rovers history some of RRFC’s official website volunteers have trawled their memory banks (and the archives) to bring their recollections of 7 memorable seasons and matches to life…..

The third article of the 7 was penned by Match Reporter, Steve Wallace:

 

At some point after the celebrations and hangovers of Raith Rovers winning the League Cup had started to dissipate, there was a realisation that there was much more excitement to come. Not only were the Rovers getting themselves right back into the First Division promotion race (which was ultimately successful as Raith were First Division Champions that season) but also, regardless of what was to happen in the league, next season, Raith Rovers were going to be playing in the UEFA Cup. It’s still hard to believe to this day, so I’ll have to repeat that. Raith Rovers were going to be playing in the UEFA Cup. As a supporter who had watched the Rovers just a few years earlier scrambling about in the lower leagues of Scottish football, these were tremendously exciting times and not to be missed.

 

This was surely the only time that Raith Rovers would qualify for Europe, so it was decided that we would not miss it. No need to discuss holiday plans for the summer of ’95, no week in Tenerife for us. We were going where the Rovers were going! Where that was, we had absolutely no idea. All we did know was that it would be in Europe. In the UEFA Cup…

 

Being regular visitors to the Novar Bar, we soon discovered that the landlord was running a savings scheme for the trip to Europe. Who needs a bank when you have a barman? So in the coming weeks and months we’d put in a few quid when we could, have it recorded on our savings card knowing that this money was going to fund out trip to see Raith Rovers in the UEFA Cup. Surely we wouldn’t need much money? It was only going to be one game in Europe wasn’t it? This was Raith Rovers. In the UEFA Cup. We were in the UEFA Cup but we weren’t actually going to beat anyone, were we?

 

The summer of 1995 quickly came around and this meant it was time for the draw for the preliminary round of the 95/96 UEFA Cup. In those days, this meant gazing at Ceefax for what seemed like an eternity before the news came through. The news flashed up on screen…Raith Rovers… v … Gotu Itrotterfelag. Who? Word Spread. They were apparently from the Faroe Islands. Where? The Faroe Islands sounded exotic. Sunny holidays after all. Hooray! However a quick trip to the book shop in Tolbooth Street to look at an atlas informed me otherwise. It turned out that according to the Atlas, the Faroe Islands were a few wee dots in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean, halfway between Scotland and Iceland. My thoughts initially were of not packing shorts and sun tan cream, but raincoat and gloves. Then a slightly more pressing though emerged. How on earth do you actually get there??

 

It turns out there were two ways of getting to the Faroe Islands, one was to fly, which cost over £500. The other was to take the ferry from Aberdeen, which would take 25 hours to reach the Faroe Islands over choppy seas, with no cabin, just a seat and we’d have to stay for a week in a youth hostel (No choice if we wanted to stay for a week, as there was only one ferry per week so you had to stay), all for less than £150. No choice really. We were going to the Faroe Islands by Ferry to watch Raith Rovers. In the UEFA Cup!

Before this, Raith had to play Gotu at home in the first leg at Starks Park. In a memorable sunny evening, Rovers played superbly and won the game 4-0. Perhaps I was wrong in my initial thoughts that we wouldn’t actually beat anyone in the UEFA Cup after all.

to stay for a week, as there was only one ferry per week so you had to stay), all for less than £150. No choice really. We were going to the Faroe Islands by Ferry to watch Raith Rovers. In the UEFA Cup!

 

Before this, Raith had to play Gotu at home in the first leg at Starks Park. In a memorable sunny evening (a story told recently by Andrew Fairlie in Part 1 of the Rovers fairytale), Rovers played superbly and won the game 4-0. Perhaps I was wrong in my initial thoughts that we wouldn’t actually beat anyone in the UEFA Cup after all.

Ten days passed after the home game and the day had arrived. Our Faroe Islands adventure was about to begin, and in the glamorous surroundings of Kirkcaldy bus station! As I looked around, there were a few well known faces on the bus, some from the south terrace at Stark’s Park, some from the Novar Bar, some noisy boys from Kinghorn, and some we were yet to get to know. All together there were about 30 of us heading to the Faroes on the ferry. A further 20 or so would be taking their own Faroe islands adventure in a tiny plane. Mind you, they did have a better plane journey that the Rovers team who didn’t land until about 3am in the morning on match day!

The Gotu match programme – a bargain, at zero cost to the supporter!

Once we’d boarded the ferry in Aberdeen we looked for our pre booked seats. Yes they were there but no way were we sitting there for 25 hours! So we immediately looked for alternative and more comfy seats in the bar. It was here that we discovered the magic of the Faroese national beer Foroyar Gull beer. Magic Stuff. Over the course of the evening it seemed to give magic powers that gave me special musical powers, a singing voice, the strange urge to play the tambourine for hours, the ability to play the piano and even do some crazy dancing. Apparently. A great night was had by the Rovers fans on board, the Crooked Jack Rovers tape was played over and over again – much to the bemusement of the barman, the gull beer flowed, Rovers fans exchanged anecdotes of the past and hopes and dreams of the European campaign long into the night.

 

Now I have no idea why we had to book seats on the ferry when clearly we were allowed to sleep on the sofas in the bar – and a great nights sleep it was. I’d recommend it.  Waking up with a raging hangover whilst watching the horizon of the sea go up and down at great pace was not such a pleasurable experience. I went out for some fresh air and there it was, land! The Faroe Islands were in sight!

 

We made our way to our accommodation for the week, The Youth Hostel in Torshavn. This was effectively a series of partitioned sections in an old gym hall. We were allocated cell block H. The hostel was basically full of Rovers supporters, some Danish schoolchildren on a school trip and a few other random hill walkers and bird watchers.

 

Check in at The Ritz, Torshavn

We may have enjoyed lots of good Faroese beer on the ferry, but alcohol was much harder to come by on the island itself. Until 3 years earlier, in 1992, alcohol was prohibited in the Faroe Islands. Alcohol could only be bought (in limited quantities) directly from the brewery, from the state controlled alcohol shop or alternatively by speaking nicely to the right fishermen.

 

The first couple of days were filled with scoping out our new surroundings, chatting to the locals, playing football on the lovely plastic pitch next to the hostel, drinking what beer we could get hold of, but the evenings were dead. It was pitch black. Nobody was outside. It was an eerie place at night. Stunningly beautiful during the day, great architecture, unspoilt coastline and rocky beaches, but dead at night.

 

Rovers fans from Pratt Street, Kinghorn and Dundee kill time until the pubs open…

Soon it was Tuesday. Game day! Was this to be the day that Raith Rovers progressed to the first round proper of the UEFA Cup? Surely we wouldn’t lose the 4 goal lead from the first leg? Nobody quite knew what to expect. After all we’d never been in the UEFA Cup before. We set off on the bus for the long journey from Torshavn to Toftir where the game was to be played. We had to travel to the neighbouring Island of Eysturoy and this involved our bus going through narrow roads, hills, tunnels, bridges and finally up and up and round and round to what seemed to be the top of a mountain. It didn’t just seem like the top of a mountain. There was a football pitch, a terracing and a main stand. There was a sheer drop of what must have been 100m behind the terracing behind the goal and the only protection from this drop was some tatty old chicken wire!

The game kicked off in awful conditions, although this seemed to be the normal weather at the national stadium in Toftir. Jimmy Nicholl had changed his team from the first leg, bringing in Danny Lennon, Davie Kirkwood & Ally Graham into the starting line up and it was Danny Lennon who gave Rovers the lead after half an hour. That was it, Rovers were now 5-0 up on aggregate and with away goals counting, we quickly calculated that we would have to lose 6 goals in the next 60 minutes to be knocked out of the cup. This was never going to happen though. The game was an entertaining affair, but mostly due to the conditions, players were shooting from anywhere when the wind was blowing the right way, taking low shots as the ball would skid like you know what along the soaken surface. With Rovers cruising to a 1-0 win, suddenly Gotu equalized with only 12 minutes remaining through Pauli Jarnskor. However, only three minutes later, Stevie Crawford put Rovers ahead 2-1 on aggregate only for Gotu to equalize again in the 87th minute through Magni Jarnskor. That was enough though, Raith had achieved a creditable 2-2 draw given the horrendous conditions and progressed 6-2 on aggregate through to the next round of the UEFA Cup….

The Main stand at the Toftir stadium

 

Rovers Fans, John Greer’s wee flag & some rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations continued on the buses back to Torshavn, only for Torshavn to be in it’s now expected silence and darkness. So, back to the Youth Hostel and we pooled together the remainder of our Gull beer supplies for the celebrations. Then the smugglers revealed that they had Whisky and Tizer in their case, so in the absence of other spirits to toast this fine victory, we celebrated in style with that now classic cocktail, Whisky Tizer!

Rovers supporters view of the pitch from the top of the cliff. Jens Martin Knudsen’s bunnet obscured from the camera by the crossbar
Your intrepid reporter and current Rovers programme editor Phil Nicholson savour Rovers entry in to the next round of the UEFA Cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We still had a few days to kill in the Faroes until the next ferry would take us home on Friday afternoon and it was Wednesday night when Torshavn finally came alive. Well relatively alive – the cinema was open! We were there like a shot. They were showing a new film with Faroese subtitles. Braveheart, it was called. Never heard of it. The poster was in Faroese, but it looked as though it had Mel Gibson in it and he appeared to be wearing a kilt. A bit odd, but as this was Torshavn and this was a single screen cinema, we went in. The place was packed. The locals had clearly been holding back their excitement from the early part of the week. Now, Braveheart as we know is along film (3 hours and 2 mins – I’ve checked), but this went on forever. There was a break in the film, probably every 45 minutes so we must have been in the cinema for about 5 hours! Whether this was down to the locals capitalist vision to get us to buy more sweeties and popcorn in each break, or the Faroese have weak bladders, I’m not entirely sure (this film was being shown in the Faroe Islands before the World Premier in Stirling in September 1995). We enjoyed the cinema so much (or the fact that again it was the only place open!) that we went back again the next night. This time there was some Batman film on. It was rubbish.

 

We had one more day in the Faroes. The usual routine of playing football on the plastic pitch next to the stadium, bit of lunch, a walk (usually to the brewery) and then ready for whatever the evening had ahead. But this evening was different. Lots of people seemed to be out and about, and there was almost an evening buzz about the place. Soon, we discovered why…the nightclub opened on a Friday! My memories of the club recall that it was like a poor version of Jackie O’s, but this was Torshavn, which only 3 days earlier had been a sleepy town. What else were we going to do? Some of the group went for it that night and had a great time. This is not the right forum for these stories, but some got to know the locals intimately, there was an attempted horse stealing incident, even more controversially a corner flag stealing incident (although safe to say that these were returned safely), the whisky and Tizer were finished off & the hostel fire alarm was mysteriously set off during the night…

 

Needless to say, we were not at our freshest when we set off to board for the long ferry journey back, but we had 25 hours on a ferry, and a 2 hour bus journey from Aberdeen to Kirkcaldy ahead of us. The journey back was slightly quieter than it was on the way out. Apart from when we managed to get back into Scottish waters and found a radio signal from Radio Scotland. They were discussing the week’s events in Europe and the draw for the next round. Who is it? It turned out it was Akranes. Who? Hadn’t Aberdeen played them in Europe before? Hang on a minute. Aren’t they from Iceland?? But Iceland is more than double the journey that we’ve just been on. I’m not spending three days on a ferry to get there…

 

We’re going to Iceland!

That was a problem for fresher minds. The ferry back was incident free and on time. We got back in Kirkcaldy just in time for the first match of the season at home in the Premier League v Celtic. The tired Rovers played bravely, but eventually lost 1-0 to a late Pierre Van Hooijdonk header.

 

Never mind. We. Raith Rovers. Are in the next round of the UEFA Cup. The European journey was not over after one tie after all…

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