We were grateful to sit down with Alex Rae and discuss all things Rangers, his career and his future plans. Alex started his footballing career at Rangers and was released before joining Falkirk, via a short stint in junior football. Two years with Falkirk led to a move down south with Millwall where Alex was about to begin a 14 year spell in English football before he would make an emotional return to his beloved light blues.
‘I spent 14 years down south as a player and I loved every minute of it at 3 special clubs, I played in over 500 games so feel part of the English landscape’
Alex recalls his time fondly, but it was the Newcastle versus Sunderland derby victory he remembers the most
‘One of the best atmospheres I played in was the North East Derby at St James park. There was only 36000 at the game because the stadium was getting redeveloped and there was only couple hundred Mackems there. As we were walking along the tunnel below ground level and walking up the stairs to the pitch the noise was incredible and the hairs were standing up back of my neck, thankfully we went on to beat them 2-1 in one of my favourite memories from my time down there’.
He certainly played with some fantastic players during his time down south also but it was Teddy Sheringham who he remembers the fondest
‘Teddy Sheringham was some player, he scored 38 goals the season we played together and went on to an amazing career, he even scored in champions league win over Bayern in one of the most dramatic endings to a final ever witnessed’
Alex clearly enjoyed his time down south and speaks fondly of his time there, but when Rangers came calling there was simply no doubt in his mind what he was going to do
‘Returning to Rangers so late in my career was a big bonus. I thought that ship had sailed but having spoken to Alex McLeish he was reinforcing how important it was to get winners into the dressing room and everything just felt right’.
Alex was returning to Rangers as the club prepared to try and wrestle back the league and the manager was building for that challenge
‘The manager was determined to bring in players who knew the club, after the previous season not defeating Celtic he was desperately wanting to change the fortunes of the club. We would lose to them in our 2nd league match to a late goal and that was a body blow but we knew we could compete and the next old firm game would define how our season would pan out. We managed to beat Celtic in a double header at Ibrox which was incredible to be involved in, especially having watched these games as a fan so many times before’
That 2004-2005 season will forever be remembered as a dramatic one and Alex was in the forefront of everything that was good about Rangers that season as the light blues snatched the league in the most dramatic of fashions. Everyone has a smile and a tale of where they were that fateful Sunday, Alex is as passionate as any supporter and smiles as he recalls
‘Leading up to the final game at Hibs we knew we had to take care of our result and that was the Managers message to us before the game. We had to hope Motherwell could somehow get a result but we never lost our belief. We went into 1-0 lead through wee Nacho and the game played out into the dying minutes. Suddenly there was an unbelievable roar from the Gers fans behind the goal, we were defending a throw in and Barry Ferguson is jumping on my back saying ‘we’ve fucking won this’ and then the fans went mental behind the goal as Motherwell had scored again. Almost unbelievably we had snatched the title away from our oldest rivals in the dying seconds of the season. To say it was one of the most dramatic ends to a season would be an understatement it’s now referred to as HELICOPTER SUNDAY’
It’s clear that Alex is rightly proud of the part he played during that season and he will always be part of the history of that momentous day. He rightly mentions Barry jumping on his back as it is a picture we all remember as the roar from the Rangers end went up. It is testament to the players that they managed to keep it together on the pitch and it was clear even though it was bedlam Alex remained calm to see the game through. Alex sealed a double that season as Rangers also claimed a league cup victory beating Motherwell 5-1 in the ‘Davie Cooper’ cup final. But it is clear he credits one man with the success of that
‘Alex McLeish was excellent man manager, his tactical knowledge was his biggest strengths and his trophy haul over his playing and management career is remarkable. I’ll be forever grateful that he gave me the opportunity to pull on the famous blue jersey’
So what about his team mates at that time?
‘Marvin Andrews is a remarkable individual who I have plenty time for. I share a room with him on our masters trips these days, but for him to continue playing through an ACL injury speaks volumes for his faith and him as a person. What I will say is he’s a dire singer with his Friday tunes on Twitter but he’s just full of life and brings a smile to everyone he meets.
During my time at Gers we had so many good players Shota Arveladze , Fernando Ricksen, Dado Prso and Barry Ferguson to name but a few. The squad had character which you need to be at a club like Rangers’
Alex joined Rangers in his twilight years and we were keen to ask him if he thought joining the club was too late in his career?
‘I’d loved to have got to Rangers years earlier but I can’t complain. I was playing in English Premiership against some of the best players in world football so I have no regrets about how things went’
So what about Rangers now? Alex is obviously a keen observer and as the club build once again we asked him how he thought things were going at present
‘Rangers, at the moment, are trying to rebuild so its 2 steps forward and one back. Hopefully the board will sort a new gaffer out soon as it’s becoming a bit of a nightmare, almost 2 months is dragging on and there is transfer window about to open. My biggest worry is will there be time for new boss to assess current squad and then have time to bring in new players?’
The future for Alex Rae and what does he have planned?
‘Working beside Alex McLeish at Genk was a great experience and I learned so much. There was 16 different nationalities at the club and to see how he man managed them all and commanded the respect of the group, was great to be part of.
I really enjoyed my time at St Mirren. It got a bit tough the last month or so but I learned a lot about myself in my time there. I’ve been offered 3 jobs since, which I’ve declined but if the right offer came along in which I thought I had the infrastructure and backing, I’d go back into the madness in a minute!…’
I’m sure every Rangers fan will wish Alex all the best and will hope that he gets back into management soon and forges a successful career in the dugout, just as he did on the pitch. Alex will always be part of the legend that is ‘Helicopter Sunday’ and it’s clear he still loves the club, like everyone else he is craving our return to the top of Scottish Football.
A massive thank you to Alex for sitting down with us and talking about Rangers, his career and future plans. It’s certainly a thrill to speak to someone who lived and breathed our dream.