Alex Rae played for Sunderland between 1996 and 2001; he signed for Peter Reid from Millwall for £1 million. In his time on Wearside the Scotsman played over 100 games and scored 12 goals before making his move to Wolves and then later on Rangers.
WAW: What made that team so successful with consecutive 7th place finishes?
AR: “It was a combination of ingredients, the fan base was great, as it is now, the boss was fantastic, and his assistants Bobby and Adrian. Another thing was that all of us got along with each other, we had a great group of lads and it was great to play in that team. I just didn’t know where the fans were coming from! The fans brought a collective togetherness and everyone was on the right path in the right direction, hopefully what Coleman can do.
WAW: What was the transition like from the old Roker Park to the SoL?
AR: “Leaving the old stadium at Roker Park helped give the fans and the team a sort of a boost; it really was a great time to be part of the club. The fans made the stadium change great. The Stadium of Light was a lot better in terms of facilities as Roker Park was a bit of a s*** h**e with the big communion baths but it had character, but so does the new stadium, the club had to move on from Roker Park though.”
WAW: What were Peter Reid and Bobby Saxton like to play for? (I’ve had mixed views on them!)
AR: “First of all they were both great man managers, as I’m sure you’ll know. Secondly, they stuck to the basics and made sure we got them completely right, it was an old school approach – simple but very effective.”
WAW: What was your favourite SAFC goal?
AR: “There’s no contest! That one against Charlton was pretty special! It was brilliantly hit, a left footed shot from a few yards outside the box, it just has to be that one!”
WAW: We beat the Mags twice at their place – what was it like to be part of the team in those games?
AR: “It was truly phenomenal! Those two wins gave us great momentum for the season and gave us a great feeling and filled us with confidence. That Shearer penalty miss was something to remember too! Tommy made a great save but overall it was a great team performance all round.”
WAW: Your captain when you were at the club was the legend that is Bally, what was he like as a captain?
AR: “Bally was everything you wanted from your captain, he was a leader and very professional as well as being a true gent on and off the field. I’ve got a lot of time for Kev and a lot of respect for him too. When I was at Millwall and we’d play at Roker Park, Bally and I would kick f***k out of each other, then I realised when I came to Sunderland that we were very similar players; it’s the same as Paul Butler who I also became very close with. When I was down Millwall, I hated coming to the North East as the fans were so passionate and would certainly make it difficult to play.”
WAW: Who were your football heroes growing up and what inspired you to go professional?
AR: “My dad was always there, and still is, he used to drive me to games all of the time and he’s still football mad now! He pushed my brother and I, who was also a professional but not on at the same level as me. I assume he’s very proud that his two sons were professional footballers as he was such a big fan.
As for players as football heroes, I’m a massive Rangers fan, so it’d have to be people like Davie Cooper, Bobby Russell, Ally McCoist and of course the nine in a row team.”
WAW: What are your first footballing memories?
AR: “I used to go to the games with my dad and sister back when I was a toddler; we always used to stand next to the tunnel. I remember one Old Firm game as a 16 year old, it was absolutely pelting down with rain – it was an amazing game, I think they had a man sent off too! At the time Celtic were dominant in terms of the league position and we beat them, as a young lad that was a great feeling for me.”
WAW: Who was the best player you played against?
AR: “There were so many and it’s hard to choose; it was a phenomenal generation of players, the likes of Steven Gerrard, Lampard, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Vieira, Ronaldo was starting to break through the ranks. Obviously before him there was people like Dennis Bergkamp and Zola for Chelsea; it really was an unbelievable era.”
WAW: You done a bit of managing at Dundee and St Mirren what was it like and do you have any aspirations to return?
AR: “I enjoyed both spells and although it was a tough environment I had a decent win ratio. I think I had about 44% win ratio at Dundee and then about the same at St Mirren too, so I didn’t do terribly. As for going back into coaching, I’ve been offered three jobs since the summer but obviously turned them all down. I’m waiting for the right opportunity to come along; I don’t want to make any poor decisions. I need a job to come along which is the right job – something that has a decent infrastructure.”
WAW: I know you’ve been doing some media recently, is that something you may consider long term?
AR: “I don’t know, it’s always good to make media appearances – I done some commentary on Saturday. I often do bits on Radio Clyde, a bit for the BBC, BT Sport and I’ve done stuff for Sky Sports too, I’m quite lucky to have all these opportunities.”
I’d like to thank you for reading and thank Alex for talking to me about his career. I’d like to with Alex all the best in the future whether in media or management.
Share your thoughts on Twitter with @WeAreWearside or with me @ethan_thoburn you can also follow Alex @alexrae1969.