Kevin Nisbet was afforded a frosty reception upon his return to Stark’s Park last Friday night, such is the lingering rancour regarding the way he departed Raith Rovers for Fife rivals Dunfermline back in 2019.
For his old Rovers teammate Dylan Tait, however, the Hibernian and Scotland attacker is the embodiment of what can be achieved if one shines in Kirkcaldy.
Nisbet — barely recognisable from the instinctive finisher who plundered 34 goals for Raith, given his physical and tactical development — scored in a 3-1 win for the Hibees in Iain Davidson’s testimonial.
And Tait relished the opportunity to test himself against a player who has made the remarkable journey from the Lang Toun to the European Championships in just three short years.
“I had just turned 17 when Nizzy was at Raith Rovers and he was already a top talent and a great finisher,” Tait told Courier Sport. “He has done so well for himself and it is good to see that the pathway is there.
“He’s taken the steps — League 1, Championship, Premiership then playing for Scotland at the Euros — so that just shows you what you can achieve if you put in the work.
“Playing against him on Friday, he is bigger, faster, stronger and his finishing is as good as it always was. He improved his game constantly and took advantage of the platforms there.
“That’s the level I aspire to reach so it’s a fantastic challenge and I thought I did okay.”
Indeed, Tait has impressed during Rovers’ 100 per cent start in the Premier Sports Cup, which they will seek to continue on Wednesday evening when they visit Premiership outfit, Livingston.
He is visibly thriving amid more license to burst forward and act as a creative force alongside Brad Spencer, with both players being charged with stepping out of the shadow of the now-departed Regan Hendry.
That would be an onerous task for some — but Tait has a refreshing bravado.
“That’s 100 per cent right. I want to be the player who everyone is talking about,” said Tait, when the prospect of filling Hendry’s boots was broached.
“I want people to be saying: ‘Dylan Tait is the one getting Raith Rovers going in the middle of the park this season’. Everyone should want to be the main man — and I do.”
An ‘unreal’ team
His lofty personal aspirations are mirrored by Tait’s aims for the Rovers.
Tait played 31 times as Raith upset the odds to finish in third spot in the Championship last term, ultimately losing out to Dundee — who would go onto win promotion — in the playoffs.
“It was an unreal team to be a part of last season,” lauded Tait. “As the campaign went on, we just got more confident that we would end up in the top-four.
“We believe we have a good team again this year and I think we’ve got a right good chance of replicating that.”