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 fifth article of the 7 was penned by Match Reporter, Steve Wallace, with some additional memories of the day from Steven Lawther and Colin Flinn:
It was on a ferry in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, on the way back from a week’s trip in the Faroe Islands that the news came through on the radio. The crackling reception from Radio Scotland told us that the next adventure for Raith Rovers in the UEFA Cup, this time the first round proper of the UEFA Cup, was against the champions of Iceland, Akranes. Great. My second holiday of the summer of 1995 and both in the North Atlantic!
The same questions arose as they had a few weeks earlier when we had been drawn to play Gotu Itrottarfelag in the preliminary round. How on earth do you get there? This time it was a much more straightforward decision. A plane had been chartered to get the Rovers support to the game. No week long stay on this occasion. In and out on a day – and if the rumours of the price of a pint equating to about £5 a pint, then just as well! No time for savings this time, at a cost of about £250 for the day trip and a fair few quid for drink then surely this was more important than paying a few bills this month, wasn’t it?
The first leg was a great European night under the floodlights at Stark’s Park, a terrific 3-1 win for the Rovers, but just how costly would that away goal for Akranes be?
The next stage of our European adventure was to begin in familiar surroundings, Kirkcaldy Bus Station! We had to meet there at 3.30 in the morning. Being very excited we had to go out for a few beers the night before. Just to calm the nerves you understand. Got to bed about midnight and set the alarm for 2.30am. The phone went at about 2am. It was my Dad. Now either he was also very excited about the big game today or he thought that there was a chance that I would have done something stupid like go out drinking the night before I had to get up at half two in the morning leaving a high chance of sleeping through the alarm. Or maybe both. Either way, I was up and about to the start of another Rovers European adventure. Off to Kirkcaldy Bus Station…
We all met up at the bus station at the agreed time of 3.30 in the morning. Even the normally unreliable time keepers were there! Some of the group had clearly decided that this going to bed thing was a bad idea and had kept drinking all the way through the night. They would have a long day ahead.
There were about 200 Rovers fans making the flight. It had taken some meticulous planning in a short space of time to make this happen. The repeat message in the lead up to the trip. Don’t forget your passport. So incredibly, 200 Rovers fans remembered their passport. Unfortunately the organizer of the trip (who shall remain nameless) managed to forget his passport. A mixture of stress, some enthusiastic early morning mickey taking of the situation, followed up by some tactful phone calls between airlines and Keflavik Airport and he was allowed to travel without a passport. I think the solution involved fax machines and all sorts. Not sure you’d get away with that nowadays.
A couple of Rovers fans had made their way to Iceland earlier via ferry where they met an Icelandic sports journalist and through him managed to blag their way to the official pre match lunch hosted by the Icelandic Minister of Tourism, by pretending to be journalists themselves. The previous day, they’d been chatting to a local who seemed to know a lot about the Rovers and the game. It wasn’t until later that they realized that they had unexpectedly had dinner with the NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe!
Anyway, we boarded the plane. I got a window seat, I do love to see the views from a plane window as you approach a new country. Unfortunately, my first view out of the window as I took to my seat at half past five in the morning was someone welding something onto the aeroplane’s wing. Was I imagining this I wondered?  I looked back. Nope there he was still furiously shaking his head and welding away. I thought it best not to mention this to the nervous flyers amongst us. We had a couple of celebrities reporters on the plane. Well, Rovers supporting Scott Davie and the legend that is Chic Young. The sight of Chic Young, head back, mouth wide open and snoring away was a terrible sight at that time of the day. No surprise that he was being filmed in this pose and others were trying to throw things in his mouth. Who needs in flight entertainment when you have a sleeping Chic Young?
The author, 199 Rovers fans and Chic Young arrive safely in Iceland
We landed successfully. The wing stayed on for the duration of the flight and airport security let the drunk people and even those with no passports into the country. We’d arrived! Kick off wasn’t until 4pm in the afternoon and we’d arrived in the country by 8am so we had time to kill. A cultural tour had been arranged.
We boarded the 4 buses waiting for us and off we went. We were here to see the sights. First stop was to the famous thermal spas. This was effectively an outdoor heated swimming pool. What the local pensioners doing their daily swim thought of being watched from the terraces by a couple of hundred bleary eyed Fifers, who knows? But they seemed to enjoy the attention and played up to the crowds, only to be on the receiving end of some less than complimentary chants from some of the group.

A Rovers geezer, some old geezers and an Icelandic geyser
Next stop was the Perlan, effectively a massive rotating restaurant on the top of a big hill in a park overlooking Reykjavik. This did offer some sensational views of the capital and surrounding areas.
Next it was time for a bit of time in Reykjavík city centre for a hearty pre match meal and some refreshments. Beers first and the beer of the day was Viking Bjor which appeared to be a favourite with the locals. Some of us decided to go with some good local hearty fare for lunch, others decided to seek out the specialty dishes from Iceland. One in particular decided to seek advice from the locals to savour the local delicacy. Advised that this was shark, this sounded good and was duly ordered. What arrived was tiny half inch squares of rubbery looking fish. All of the kitchen staff and locals gathered round to watch this naïve Scotsman eat the local delicacy. Suspicion was aroused. The shark being the most disgusting thing ever tasted! It turns out that the sharks used to make this delicacy are the Greenland Sharks or Basking Sharks. The sharks have uremic acid and trimethylamine oxide throughout their flesh. This makes the sharks poisonous and inedible unless properly processed. By processing it pretty much means letting it rot for 6 months underground. As a result the meat becomes urea-filled and smells like urine and rotten fish. It’s traditional for the locals to urinate on the shark before burying it to help the fermentation process along. So if ever you see Hákarl, or ‘Pish Shark’ as it’s become known, on a menu, you have been warned!
After lunch, a quick kick about in the city centre, chatting up a few locals and then back on the bus for the next stage of the tour. En route to Akranes, we had a trip along the west coast of Iceland, through the fjords, past the volcanoes and along a truly spectacular coastline. This section of the trip was largely fueled by multiple bottles of J&B whisky picked up at duty free on the way. This meant that when the Akranesvollur was in sight, the Raith faithful were in full voice and ready for the game ahead.

The J&B has a hold of Raith Programme Editor Phil Nicholson, as he contemplates a Viking raid on the bar after the match
The Akranesvollur was a strange stadium. The Raith support was housed in the seated stand right next to the sea. And I mean right next to the sea. It was just yards from the water. Very handy for those who had drunk too much over the course of the day. The rest of the stadium was, well, not a stadium. It primarily consisted of a big grass verge. It made you wonder that if Stark’s Park required a reduced capacity to make it UEFA compliant, how on earth did this place pass?
The Akranes matchday programme
That was not our concern however. The Rover support were in the stadium. Flags in position and singing voices turned up in full – still fuelled by the remaining J&B which the stadium stewards seemed to have no intention of confiscating.
This was it. The UEFA Cup. First round proper. In the second leg, leading 3-1. Could Rovers do the unthinkable and proceed yet another round? We were soon to find out. This would be a massive challenge to get through this game. Akranes went into this tie as favourites and fully expected to win the first game at Stark’s Park. And rightly so. This was a team who had won the Icelandic championship 15 times, they had played 42 games in Europe and the team contained 8 Icelandic international players. Against Raith Rovers. We were good, but our credentials were nothing like theirs.
 Jimmy Nicholl had set his team out to defend and hopefully get an away goal of our own on the break. I can’t be sure of exactly how the team was meant to be set up but effectively it turned out to be a 6-3-1 formation. The defence of McAnespie, Broddle, Coyle, Dennis, Sinclair, & Kirkwood, a midfield of Cameron, Lennon & Dair, with Stevie Crawford on his own up front. Akranes had the best of the first half, but the longer that the game progressed at 0-0, the better for Rovers. The 200 Rovers supporters amongst the 1800 crowd were in absolute full voice partying and singing as we remained in pole position in the tie. This was all about to change in the second half though.
The Akranes pressure got more and more intense as the game moved into the second half and when Arnar Gunnlaugsson headed home, Akranes were 1-0 up and just one more goal for the home team would see them through on away goals. Akranes sensed victory and continued to bombard the Raith defence. The pressure was intense. The Raith formation of 6-3-1 now seemed to focus on all out defence and it looked like a 10-0-0 formation. But this was absolutely required. Raith could not get the ball out of their own half. The Raith support who it seemed had been in full voice earlier, rallied and found new levels of shouting, cheering and supporting the under pressure Rovers team. I still to this day have never seen 200 supporters make so much noise. They truly were the proverbial 12th man that day. But one man stood up even more that day to see us through the game. Some regard Scott Thomson’s penalty save in the cup final as his greatest moment, but to anyone who witnessed this match, this was Scott Thomson’s finest hour. The Raith goal was under constant bombardment, shots coming thick and fast but Thomson was there every time. He made 4 or 5 absolutely unbelievable world class saves that afternoon. The pressure from Akranes increased, the volume from the Rovers fans increased yet again, the Rovers defence held firm and any opening that the Icelanders got, our keeper Scott Thomson kept it out. The ref blew the final whistle. After a massive sigh of relief from players and fans alike, then everyone went ballistic. A truly amazing performance. The Rovers had made it through to the next round!
Back to the buses and more celebrations and whisky on the way back to the airport. Nobody quite knew how we’d managed to get through that tie, but we had. Into the airport bar, and no sooner had we ordered more Viking Bjors and the team joined us. Not even me telling Jimmy Nicholl that his beloved Manchester United had just been knocked out of Europe could take the smile off of his face – it just made the day even more surreal – yes, Raith Rovers had gone further in Europe than Man United! Barry Wilson gave everyone a rendition of the Scatman, the players shared memories of the day, stopped for photos, signed autographs and joined in the celebratory singing. Players and supporters as one as I have never experienced since. It was with sadness that we were called to board the flight home. How some of the supporters were allowed back on the plane still amazes me given their drunken state – I guess they were just glad to get us on our way back to Scotland.
We’re through! Jimmy NIc gets up close and personal with Phil Nic and John Greer. Quinny contemplates a 90s style photo-bombing
Yer Man didn’t care a jot that Man Utd were knocked out of Europe that night
Scott Thomson, just before he was told he’d be getting his match bonus paid in Hákarl

The newspaper headlines the next day were full of praise for Rovers’ amazing result, probably summed up with a photo of the Rovers support with the tagline ‘Iceland was full of steaming geysers’!

We sang songs such in anticipation of the draw for the next round, such as, ‘Do they do a haggis supper in Milan?’ and ‘We’ll be painting Barcelona blue and white’, dreaming of the big teams that we might draw in the next round. These songs weren’t that far off the mark…
The trip to Akranes remains one of my favourite ever days as a Rovers supporter. However, there was one more big UEFA Cup adventure to come…

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