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EXCLUSIVE: Ten years on from ‘Deefiant’ drama, Raith Rovers skipper Kyle Benedictus returns to Dundee with one purpose

Kyle Benedictus scored following a short corner when Raith drew 1-1 with Dundee earlier this term.

Dundee’s ‘Deefiant’ heroes will soon reunite for dinner, drinks and a merry amble down memory lane.

Kyle Benedictus is more than happy to be the most unpopular man at the table if it means Raith Rovers successfully robbed his old club of further glories.

“I don’t think anyone will ever forget that achievement and the togetherness among the squad and the supporters,” he recalled. “The club was actually looking to organise a dinner and a few drinks in Dundee to commemorate the 10 years but, with the pandemic, we weren’t able to. 

“I think we are still going to do that once we get back to some sense of normality and it’ll be brilliant to look back on the highs and the lows, and what we actually managed to achieve.

“But the bottom line is Raith Rovers and Dundee are now vying for the same prize and I’m determined to make sure Rovers come out on top.” 

Friday marked exactly 10 years since Leighton McIntosh’s goal sealed a 1-0 victory over Ross County and Division One survival for Barry Smith’s side.

Benedictus, a fresh-faced teenager when he endured the trials and tribulations of that season, reckons the only reason Dundee prevailed was the unshakable team-spirit fostered in the face of another financial crisis and subsequent 25-point deduction.

Ominously for the current crop of Dens Park stars, he sees an identical camaraderie and work ethic within John McGlynn’s high-flying Rovers side. 

“It’s funny; I think back to that team and then consider the dressing room we have at Raith and I see similarities in the togetherness and the way we all support each other,” he notes. “That’s a brilliant foundation for any team.” 

Benedictus clutches the League 1 trophy

Yet, it would be doing free-flowing Raith an enormous disservice to suggest their success is solely based around a willingness to graft.

They arrive in the City of Discovery on Saturday knowing a point will be enough to secure second place in the Championship and, should they do so, it will have been achieved with style, bravery and a focus on developing young talent.

It is easy to forget that Rovers were only promoted by a points-per-game margin of 0.03 ahead of Falkirk when League 1 was curtailed due to the pandemic last April.

“I believe we are the best football team in the league and it’s the best footballing side I have ever been a part of,” lauded Benedictus. “The plaudits that are finally coming the manager’s way are absolutely justified.

“I won the league with Dundee, but it wasn’t in this type of style. The manager has clearly learned a lot from his time at Celtic [as a scout] with Brendan Rodgers and his attention to detail is astonishing; I’ve never seen anything like it. 

“He wants us to play in a certain way and he gives us the confidence to express ourselves out on the pitch. Will we make mistakes? Of course. But as long as we are trying to do the right things, then you are given that leeway.

Raith Rovers boss John McGlynn.

“No-one outside the club expected us to be where we are. I’m not sure everyone even knew we were in the Championship at the start of this season, with all the confusion! But we believed in ourselves.”

If Benedictus is buoyed by his role in this Rovers side — and he audibly is — then that is, in part, due to the fact he has endured the polar opposite; a dreadful, disjointed outfit, relegated in ignominy on their own patch.

He still recalls dropping out of the Championship at the hands of Brechin City (what a long time ago that must seem for the Hedgemen) in 2017, losing out on penalties after a breathless playoff tie.

Even Raith Rovers’ official website could not sugar-coat the dismal afternoon which precipitated John Hughes’ resignation, describing the result as a ‘wretched new nadir’. 

A feeling of inescapable responsibility stopped Benedictus — never a League One player in a million years — from jumping ship in the following close-season.

Dark days: Rovers go down

“Things weren’t great at the club at that time, and it panned out really badly,” he recalled. “There were other options — other teams — but I wanted to stay true to myself and the supporters. 

“I said that I would stay at Raith Rovers and make sure they got back to the Championship. I knew how much it meant to the community and fans to have Rovers in the Championship and it wouldn’t have felt right to walk away.”

He has fulfilled that duty and, proudly wearing the armband, is now permitted to dream of emulating Livingston by winning successive promotions to the top-flight.

“There’s only a few games left, we are building momentum at the perfect time — and if we could achieve that…it would be one of the greatest achievements in Raith Rovers’ history,” he adds. 

Dundee vs Raith Rovers: The numbers underline the ‘big advantage’ of sealing second spot in the Championship – but will a shortened campaign change that?