TEN OF THE BEST
Former Gers midfielder Alex Rae shares his Ten of the Best with your club website
THIS season we’ll be re-publishing a much loved programme feature where various former players and staff talk about some of their favourite experiences and tales from football in 10 of the Best.
Today it is Alex Rae’s turn and he remembers coming up against Arsenal legend Patrick Viera, scoring his one and only goal for Rangers and beating Old Firm rivals Celtic.
WE CAUGHT UP WITH ALEX FOR HIM TO ANSWER TEN OF THE BEST – SCROLL DOWN TO READ BELOW.
Best Memory Of Time At Rangers
My best memory from my time at Rangers was when I captained the team in a League Cup semi-final tie against Dundee United in February 2005 and we won 7-1. It was the only time I got the opportunity to captain the club I supported as a wee boy so it was a really proud moment in my career and to win in the way we did made it even more special.
To lead the team out at Hampden was a great feeling and in the first half we were 2-0 up with wee Nacho and Dado getting the goals. In the second half Jason Scotland scored for United five minutes in but after that setback we got going again with Thomas Buffel and Fernando on target before a Steven Thompson double, and another from Nacho, in the latter stages put a bit of gloss on the scoreline.
That result took us through to the final against Motherwell which we won 5-1 so we had a great run in the competition that season, also beating Aberdeen and Celtic in previous rounds.
Best Goal I Scored At Rangers
Picking out the best goal I scored for Rangers is easy as I only scored one!
I joined Rangers in May 2004 and in the January of my first season Dunfermline came to Ibrox and we won 3-0 with Steven Thompson and big Marvin Andrews putting us two goals in front before half time.
We went into the second half shooting towards the Copland Stand and in the 64th minute Fernando put in a cross and I was able to bullet a header into the net. Being a wee guy I was quite pleased to score with my head and to do it at the Copland end of the ground was great.
To be honest though I was disappointed with my goals tally at Rangers, I should have scored a lot more, but scoring at Ibrox, even doing it just once, is special and it’s something you never forget.
Best Game At Rangers
Two of the best games I played in during my time at Rangers were against Celtic in November 2004. We came up against them twice – in the League Cup on the 10th and in the SPL on the 20th – and we won on both occasions.
In the Cup we won 2-1 after extra time which was a massive result as we had lost the first game at Celtic Park that season by a single goal and in the previous season – in 2003/04 before I joined the club – Celtic had won all five Old Firm derbies. It wasn’t looking good for us again when John Hartson scored just after the hour mark but with five minutes left Dado equalised and in extra time Shota Arveladze netted what proved to be the winner.
To get that win and halt Celtic’s run was really important and 10 days later we won 2-0, again at Ibrox, with Nacho firing in a penalty and Dado on target again. Alan Thomson and Chris Sutton were sent off that day but it was great to be able to enjoy two really good victories over our biggest rivals.
Best European Night
My best European night with Rangers actually wasn’t a win, it was when we went to Porto and drew 1-1 in November 2005.
That result in our penultimate group match meant we still had a chance of progressing to the last 16 stage of the Champions League that season and two weeks later we went on to record another 1-1 draw against Inter at Ibrox in our final game – with Peter Lovenkrands scoring – to do just that.
I didn’t play against the Italians but I did against Porto and it was a great night for the club. We went a goal down in the second half but with seven minutes remaining our super sub Ross McCormack, who I think was only 19 at the time, smashed in the winner.
Unfortunately, I was given a five-match European ban in my first season at Rangers after an incident in our qualification game against CSKA Moscow so I didn’t get to play in as many big Champions League games as I would have liked!
Best Manager I Worked Under
The best manager I worked under, or certainly the one who played a big part in my early career, is Bruce Rioch and I was, and still am, grateful to him for taking me to Millwall from Falkirk in 1990.
He was very thorough and a disciplinarian as well but every manager has different qualities. I was only young, 20 or 21, when I joined Millwall so Bruce took me under his wing and helped me a lot.
It was a big step for me, moving down south from Scotland, but I was lucky to work under a very good boss who went on to manage the likes of Bolton, Arsenal and Norwich City after his time at The Den.
Best Childhood Memories
Like most players my best childhood memories involve playing football for youth teams and I remember joining Eastercraigs which was one of the top boys clubs at the time.
Back then I was playing for a small local club but Eastercraigs produced a lot of good kids so when I joined them I got the opportunity to play with better players which meant I had to improve as well.
I suppose it put me in a ‘sink or swim’ situation as I was a new player joining this big boys club in Glasgow but I was determined to do well and it was a great experience for me. I loved kicking a ball about when I was young but back then you are never sure you are going to make it as a professional player.
I was lucky to go on and play for Falkirk, Millwall, Sunderland, Wolves, Rangers, Dundee and MK Dons so every kid out there should set their targets high and believe they can have a career in football as well.
Best Opponent I Faced
Following on from my last answer I have played with and against a lot of top players but the best opponent I faced was Patrick Vieira at Arsenal.
Technically he was fantastic and on top of that he was a leader on the pitch. When you came up against him you knew you were in for a battle but I enjoyed that and I learned a lot from him when he wasn’t taking the p*** out of me! But being serious he was a great midfielder who could tackle and get stuck in.
In fairness he would dish it out but he would take a hard challenge as well, he knew it was part of the game. He was a special talent.
Best Young Player Worked With
After moving into coaching I have seen a lot of talented kids who you know are going to do well but the best young player I’ve worked with was Tom Ince.
I had him at Blackpool and straight away you could see he had terrific technical ability. He is still young and he can score goals for fun. For a young boy he has already achieved a lot in the game and has a lot of caps for England at under-21 level. I think he can only get better and I’m expecting big things from him.
Best Moment As A Coach
My best moment as a coach has probably been guiding Dundee to the runners-up position in the First Division when I was their player/ manager.
I really enjoyed my time up at Dens Park and hopefully, one day, I can have another crack at being a manager. I’ve been an assistant now for six or seven years but being the manager of Dundee for two-and-a-half years was something I really enjoyed and it was a great challenge.
As I’ve said the one thing about football is you never know where you can end up and I never expected to be a coach in Belgium.
Best Piece Of Advice
When I was at Rangers the best piece of advice I received came from Walter Smith when I was 16. He said that regardless of what you are – whether it is an electrician, plumber or a footballer – you should always give 100 per cent and if you do that everything else will fall into place.
Unfortunately, for many years I didn’t do that. I then met Walter again when I was 29 and I said to him that I wished I had listened to him all those years ago.
As a young player you have to listen to advice you are given and thankfully the penny dropped latterly for me and it was better late than never.