Claude Anelka and the third force…

“Gizza job, c’mon Gizza job…I can do that” In a case of life imitating art there is more of a parallel from this scene from Alan  Bleasdales “Boys from the Blackstuff” than we in Kirkcaldy would wish to acknowledge.

The British film institute described the TV programme as a “seminal drama series….a warm, humerous but ultimately tragic look at the way economics affect ordinary people..” the only part of that description which isn’t relevant to Claude’s tenure in Kirkcaldy would be the use of the word funny!

Its the stuff of urban legend, sporting myth and bonkers fiasco that a man can contact a professional football club  and set in motion a course of events which lead to a job….

Well not just any job within the club. THE JOB!

Call the post Technical Director, Director of Football, Manager, Coach or omnipotent overlord. It doesn’t matter to a great degree in this story as the point is that a man (Claude Anelka) was able to use his; influence, connections, social standing and the currency of his family name to embark upon a sporting odyssey which belies belief. Claude was to be quickly portrayed as a man who would be defined by his grandiose statements (who can forget that we were to be the third force of Scottish football!!)

If Claude will ultimately be remembered as a character akin to Aardman animations Wallace then the people of Kirkcaldy had to take on the role of the characters sceptical canine grommet as we strapped ourselves into the sidecar for a ride which the AA route finder would simply describe as “destination unknown”

It did indeed end in tears and tantrums, but hey it’s Raith Rovers we don’t mind marching to a very different beat to the path treaded by others. The stats tell the story in fairly graphic terms and I would point the interested or mystified to Shaughan McGuigans article on his blog “Tell him he’s Pelé” for a neat synopsis of the full gory details including the view of Turnbull Hutton who held the Chairmanship at that point in time.

Tell him he’s Pelé

What came next? well, financial meltdown leant heavily on the shoulders of Raith Rovers as the club sought to reinvent and regenerate itself. It was my own involvement in the “Reclaim the Rovers” campaign of 2005 which followed which forced me to take a decision as to how I would interact with the club into the future if indeed Raith Rovers actually had a future.

Note the campaign had the remit of succeed or see Starks Park sold for housing development…crisis nobody does it quite as good as us!!

The campaign forced upon me a simple question- Remain on the outside shouting inwards, fuelled by a sense of entitlement or roll up my sleeves give my time and whatever skill base I had of value to assist the club. I chose the latter.

It was through that process that important friendships were formed and the section on the Treatment Table radio show gives some note of the level of creativity which was prevalent at that time. So when an email address belonging to Claude Anelka came my way I had a simple thought: why not contact Claude and give him the chance to share his thoughts first hand.

The email was quickly responded to and within a day calls from the Langtoun to Florida established a window of opportunity where Claude would be in the UK and if we wished he would sit down and chat, on mic for us to use on the Rovers radio show.

I floated the idea and to his credit Tom Phillips stepped up to the plate. My side kick when presenting the radio show Tom made a simple comment which can be paraphrased along the lines of “life is just a barrel and you can either fill it with interesting experiences or just sit back and watch” Hence we set about organising a trip to London and more specifically the Hilton Hotel Paddington where we recorded the following interview.

I’m not too sure how well it stands the test of time but it is an interesting curio which is worth a listen. It’s something I’m glad we done, I also think it’s something Claude needed. The preamble to the interview shares where our heads were at in that moment and I stand by most of what is said.

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