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Raith boss Ray McKinnon has no fears about pre-contract player’s loyalties

Raith's James Craigen.
Raith's James Craigen.

Raith boss Ray McKinnon says he will have no hesitation playing James Craigen against Falkirk tomorrow night – despite the fact the player has signed a pre-contract with the Bairns for next season.

The 25-year-old former Partick Thistle midfielder signed a deal with Peter Houston’s side at the start of March.

Now though he is set to face Falkirk at Stark’s Park this evening, in the second last league game of the season, and there is every chance that Raith could then meet the same opposition in the Premiership play-offs.

Craigen would naturally like to be playing his football in the top tier next season but McKinnon insists he has absolutely no fears that the player will have divided loyalties and will continue to give everything for the Rovers cause.

The manager said: “James has done well. We had a good chat with him and told him we trusted him to be a good professional – and he’s proved that.

“Let’s see how he is on Saturday against Falkirk – this will be a trial run for him!

“He’s done great this season and scored nine goals for us, which we’re delighted with.

“We spoke to him specifically about coming up against Falkirk because it’s going to be either Falkirk or Hibs in the play-offs.

“I said I trust him to go out and give everything and he was the same.

“His reputation is on the line as well. If he downs tools and anybody asks me about him I would tell them he had downed tools.

“But he’s not. He’s a good kid, he works hard, he’s done well and a lot of credit goes to him for that.

“I would know within 10 minutes if he wasn’t playing the way we wanted him to play, and we’ve spoken about that.

Ray McKinnon.
Ray McKinnon.

McKinnon added: “He’d be embarrassed if I played him and we took him off after 15 minutes. That’s what he’s got to think about.

“But I wouldn’t have a problem playing James, whatsoever.

“I think James will give everything for us, whether it’s against Falkirk or Hibs, because he’s got his reputation to think about.

“He’s been a model pro for us. He’s a fit boy, he’s scored nine goals and had a great season, and he wants to go out on a high.

“We did have a chat with him and the scenarios were out there for him.

“But also the trust was there, because I told him I trusted him.

“And he’s actually done really well since the news broke.

“We haven’t had an issue with him or any issues with him going out there and not playing well.

“He’s a good kid and a good professional, so I’ve no worries.”

Raith have so far failed to beat Falkirk in three league games this season, drawing once and losing narrowly in the other two matches.

However, McKinnon insists his side are in the driving seat going into tomorrow’s game and then the play-offs.

He added: “To be honest, if we beat them in the play-offs that’s all that is important.

“But in every game I think they’ve been fortunate to beat us, very, very fortunate.

“But going into this game with a full squad, I think we’re in the driving seat, to be honest.

“They’ve got injuries and we’re getting boys back.

“Saturday’s result is unimportant to me. It’s about the performance.

“I’ll mix my team up and, whether that’s the same side that plays against them in the play-offs or not, I could probably tell you their team going into the play-offs.

“I don’t think they could tell you our team. That’s my secret going into the play-offs.”

Meanwhile, McKinnon revealed the club have not broached the subject of him extending his contract.

When he joined Rovers last summer it was on a two-year deal.

Considering the job McKinnon has done so far on a shoestring budget, it would be astonishing if he had not popped up on other clubs’ radar.

However, the manager said: “The club haven’t spoken to me about a new contract.”