Alex Rae is relishing having another opportunity with the club he supported in boyhood and then played for following his departure from Molineux in 2004.
The hugely popular driving force of Wolves’ first Premier League team has been retained as part of new Rangers boss Philippe Clement’s coaching team and is hoping to secure a long-term future at the club.
The Ibrox giants announced on October 1 following Michael Beale’s exit that Rae was returning there as part of an interim management unit led by Steven Davis.
The veteran midfielder has since returned purely to the playing ranks and to a personal battle for fitness after injury but Paul Ince’s long-time assistant has remained prominent and was seen at close quarters by Wolves Heroes over the weekend while leading the warm-ups before the 1-1 league draw at Aberdeen.
Some sources have been quickly suggesting he already has his feet under the table as part of the Belgian’s preferred backroom line-up, Ibrox Noise reporting: “It was never officially announced but Alex Rae is Clement’s ‘Rangers man’ assistant.”
The website added: “Rae, whose announcement as assistant may come at some stage (or not at all), has been reliably present with Clement in the dug-out at every match so far. Ibrox Noise sources confirm he was given the job the week Clement arrived.”
Neil McCann, Graeme Souness and Kevin Thomson were seen as more likely candidates for the role but the site continued: “Rae is 100 per cent a Rangers man and as dyed-in-the-wool a bluenose as you’ll find. If you want a ‘localised’ coach who gets Rangers and what the club is all about, he is about as good as there is.”
For a reminder of quite how devoted the former Millwall and Sunderland man is to the badge, we flick back to one of the issues of the Wolves Official Magazine published in 2003-04 and a feature in which he stated that a compensation for the impending end to his playing career was the knowledge that he would then be free to travel Scotland and beyond as a Rangers fan.
Better than that, though, having failed to break through as a youth at Ibrox, he followed Kevin Muscat in signing for them as a player in 2004 and became a league title winner in his first season back north of the border.
During his two years at Ibrox, he was also part of a squad who lifted the League Cup. So what then happened following a stint of two and a bit years at Dundee that gave him his introduction to management?
Readers of another gold and black publication, the excellent Revolution of Wolves book brought out this year by Paul Berry and Johnny Phillips, will smile at the background to the direction Rae’s career moved in before he was also put in charge at St Mirren.
The loathing between he and Ince as on-field rivals at Sunderland and Middlesbrough came out loud and clear in those illuminating pages but their link-up at Molineux in 2002 led to a successful, instant chemistry that subsequently saw them reunited at Notts County, MK Dons, Blackpool and Reading.
The duo were most recently sacked by Reading in April but Rae had by then completed the conversion of his good friend to the massed ranks in blue, Ince admitting on talkSPORT: “I have spent a lot of time with Alex and he is a mad, mad Rangers fan. It’s great seeing him working at the club he loves.
“I managed a charity team for Fernando Ricksen and I’ve just always had a soft spot for them (which Alex cemented). And when I go back to when Gazza was at Rangers, they had such a good team.”
At 54, Rae, who also had a spell with Alex McLeish at Belgian club Genk, has potentially good years in the dug-out ahead of him.
The overview from Ibrox Noise continued thus: “He’s definitely not a failure as a boss in truth but maybe not a shining success either, although circa 40 per cent win rates at those clubs is about normal and acceptable.
“In all honesty, he only ever wanted to be in the position he’s in now – part of the set-up at Ibrox, HIS team. He’s clearly got the club’s best interests at heart. Clement has clearly made his choice in Rae – and that’s how it will go forward.”
Rae’s voice has been widely heard across Scotland for years in his work as a pundit for BT Sport and more recently for Rangers TV.
It was at the microphone last spring that he urged less talk and more action from Rangers in their battle for supremacy with Celtic, sounding the warning that being second in Glasgow meant nothing.
*Oh….and there was even a VAR controversy in the game we attended at Pittodrie on Sunday, with Rangers being awarded a stoppage-time penalty from which James Tavernier scored to rescue a draw.