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Cult Heroes: Alex Rae

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Well chaps and chapettes, I hope the hangover's from Saturday have subsided some what, unless of course you have taken advantage of the bank holiday weekend and carried your celebrations over into Bank Holiday Monday. Whilst it was a nervy first half, with the injury woes that have become part and parcel of following our side, it was great to see the lads show a lot of heart and spirit in the second half and earn a vital three points to surely ease any relegation worries.

For me the key to victory was the central midfield combination of Cattermole, Colback and Henderson, a blend of youthful abandon in the two young starlets and the bite from their captain Cattermole allowing Jack and Jordan to maraude forward.

It was this mix that inspired todays Cult Heroes selection, a man that combined grit, determination, leadership and goals... ladies and gentlemen, please welcome aboard the good ship Cult Heroes... Alex Rae

Alexander Scott Rae started his career at his boyhood side Rangers, where his heart was broken as then boss Graeme Souness rejected the young Scot. Rae was to take a drop down the Scottish leagues with Bishopbriggs before a successful spell with Falkirk where he managed twenty goals during his two year stint for the side.

Alex's good form caught the eye of London outfit Millwall in 1990, who paid £100,000 for his services, where he went on to make his name as a tough tackling midfielder with an eye for goals. Rae hit the net sixty-three times for the Lions over the course of his six year stay in the capital. Rae was even Millwall's top scorer for three seasons running and managed to celebrate his twentieth birthday with a four goal haul.

The combative midfielder's impressive resume convinced Sunderland enough to bid £1M for the Scotsman in the summer of 1996, plus a further one-thousand quid when he was named in the lineup for a pre-season friendly against Whitley Bay.

Rae's first season with the club was as frustrating as it was puzzling for the Roker crowd. The Sunderland side were crying out for goals, only managing thirty-five over the course of the Premier League season, a statistic which would go some way to explain the club's swift return to the first division. Despite the obvious lack of goals, Alex found first team football hard to come by and would have to wait until the next season to make his impact on Wearside.

Make an impact he did. The midfielder's style of play quickly endeared him to the Sunderland crowd, never one to shy away or back out of a tackle, the Scotsman was not afraid not get himself involved in the attacking side of the game, all of the attributes for a cult hero in my eyes.

Rae's country came a-knocking following his impressive performances that term, fair enough it was just the Scotland "B" side, but at that time in Sunderland's history it was a rare occasion to see any of our players receive international recognition!

The 1998/99 season proved to be problematic for our commanding central midfielder as a combination of a knee ligament injury and off the field drink related problems restricted his appearances in the red and white.

Rae took time away from football to address his addiction in a Hampshire clinic and if memory serves me right he spent some time in Kevin Phillips' converted barn? Also, allegedly upon returning to the training ground, Alex was presented with a "welcome back" gift that consisted of six cans of Stella from his team-mates!

Alex also thanked the Sunderland fans, expressing his disbelief at the number of letters and good wishes he received whilst undergoing treatment, yet again another example of the fantastic relationship that the SAFC faithful will afford the committed members of the team.

Unfortunately for both Rae and Sunderland his return to the fold was again cut short by a return of the knee ligament injury which had previously put him out of action. Alex never really managed to force his way back into Peter Reid's plans and was transferred to Wolves for £1.2M in 2001.

Rae managed to establish himself with his new side and the Wolves' fans were quick to see why he was such a fan favourite on Wearside. Rae was awarded the player of the season in his first term with his new club, helped guide them to promotion via the play offs and was also their top scorer in the following season's Premiership adventure.

More recently, Alex was part of the managerial team of Notts County which knocked Sunderland out of the cup in just the third round. Rae never got a real opportunity to say his farewells to the Sunderland fans following his exit and was finally granted his wish through the FA Cup. Hopefully the next time we meet Alex will not leave the happier man!

I even managed to find my favourite Alex Rae moment on YouTube. During the 2000/01 season Sunderland travelled to Carlton where Rae was treated to boo's from the Charlton stands before rifling home this screamer and literally silencing the Addicks.

Alex Rae goal (Sunderland v Charlton) (via NiallQuinnsSlacks)

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