'Ridiculous' offer, player swap, and loan saga: Unpacking the Raith Rovers statement on Hibs signing Dylan Tait
Any statement that begins with the phrase “At 4.30pm (10.30pm Bangkok time) on transfer deadline day, I received a call from Dylan Tait’s agent...” is bound to be at the very least interesting, if not borderline explosive.
Raith Rovers chairman John Sim was the man in Thailand on the other end of the phone as Hibs tried desperately to bolster their squad before the midnight deadline.
Hibs eventually got the deal through and announced it the following day after completing the deal with minutes to spare.
Tait signed a four-year deal and would be returning to Stark’s Park on loan until January; a common feature of many transfers.
Previewing his side’s SPFL Trust Trophy match against Forfar Raith boss John McGlynn revealed that the deal wouldn’t have gone ahead without Tait returning to Kirkcaldy.
The rest of the Rovers manager’s comments focused on the Championship side being a good place for youngsters to develop, attract attention, and in some cases make the step up to England or the Scottish Premiership. Again, nothing controversial there.
So Sim’s decision to reveal some of the finer details of the midfielder’s move to Easter Road came out of the blue on Sunday afternoon. Any lengthy statement referencing “the interests of clarity” is always worth reading.
Hibs’ initial offer
Recalling his initial involvement in the deal Sim wrote: “Dylan’s agent advised me that Hibs were keen to sign Dylan before the deadline and that Dylan and his family were very keen to accept the offer that had been made to him.
"Hibs had made a ridiculous offer which we rejected. It involved no money, but players in exchange.
“I reiterated that it was not our intention to sell at this time as we had no financial need.”
The reference to a player-swap is interesting. Jamie Gullan has played just six minutes of first-team football this term and was tipped to join Kilmarnock on deadline day. He has enjoyed two fruitful loan spells with Raith and is understood to have expressed a desire for more regular gametime.
It seems plausible that Gullan might have been one of the players offered. If the other was a central midfielder then Josh Campbell looks like a potential candidate. The combative midfielder has found first-team options limited although he featured extensively in the club’s Europa Conference League campaign.
Midfield shortages and ‘win-win’ situation
Sim added that he felt “there was no way [McGlynn] would sanction a transfer” so late in the window before adding: “I was then advised that the agent had already spoken to the manager and that the manager would not want an unhappy player.”
The Stark's Park chairman continued: “We also agreed to seek a win-win as best as we could.”
That win-win situation appears to have been sanctioning the transfer provided Tait returned to Fife on loan, and holding out for a significant transfer fee also.
Raith are currently light in midfield with Frankie Musonda and Brad Spencer sidelined. This would also help to explain Hibs attempting a player-swap arrangement that will have likely included at least one central midfielder.
First-team place – and McGrath implications?
"After discussing our options we went back to Dylan’s agent and explained that unless we could keep him on loan until at least January we would not proceed as we did not have time to find a replacement,” Sim continued.
“In our transfer negotiations we now expect a significant sell-on clause plus various incentives depending on how the player progresses. This was conveyed to Hibs, together with a requirement that the fee be increased.
“At this point it looked like the deal would not go through because Hibs said they saw him competing immediately for a first-team place.”
That last reference is very interesting. The Capital club sometimes look a little light in terms of options on the bench, even with everyone fully fit, although there is no question that it has improved since last season. But did agreeing to loan Tait back to Raith accelerate the move for Jamie McGrath?
Hibs’ pursuit of the St Mirren did appear to gather pace after the Tait deal had been all but agreed.
A trade and a complaint?
Sim revealed that Raith wanted to hang onto Tait until after the Fife derby with Dunfermline on January 2, adding: “This required us to trade a little, but not significantly.”
This could have been the transfer fee or the Championship side pushing to keep Tait until the end of the campaign.
The deal was done and relevant paperwork faxed to Hampden at two minutes to midnight – but discussions surrounding Tait’s loan back carried on until the early hours.
He added: “We are pleased for Dylan, but it is not a deal that we wanted to do.
"Had he the chance to play for us in the Premiership or an English club come in for him we would have expected the fee to be higher.”
Quite telling remarks, suggesting that the club wasn’t 100 per cent satisfied with Tait’s fee.
However, the confirmation of what appears to be several clauses as part of the contract – potentially appearances, goals, international recognition – could see Raith net a tidy sum, although Sim added: “We will receive more at the front end than has been quoted, with further significant payments to come if Dylan progresses in his career as we expect.”
Raith’s pride and regret
An interesting, if slightly pointed, statement. Sim's main issue seems to be the transfer fee not quite meeting his expectations but it is a tribute to the work of John McGlynn and Paul Smith and all at Raith that a top-three Premiership side is coming to them to improve their squad as Hibs have.
The Fifers currently lie eighth in the second tier with one point from two games but they will be looking to kickstart their season in the coming weeks, and Tait could have a big role to play as he seeks to repay the club that helped him earn his move to Hibs.