Dundee to Down Under: Gavin Rae Interview
- Sport Careers Agency director looks back at his career in the game
- Midfielder won 14 Scotland caps and starred for Dundee, Rangers, Cardiff and Aberdeen
- Loving his new life in Australia
- Relishing his new coaching and business ventures
- Wants to see more help for current players to plan for retirement
Former Scotland midfielder Gavin Rae is a busy man these days.
Now living in Australia, the former Dundee Rangers, Cardiff and Aberdeen midfielder balances family life, business and coaching from his new base in Sydney.
In an exclusive interview, Rae looks back on a playing career which brought him 14 international caps, discusses his plans for the future and passes on his words of wisdom for today's generation of players.
Gavin Rae Q&A
Q- After making your professional debut for Dundee as an 18 year-old in 1996 you went on to have an eventful time at the club. You experienced four different managers, one promotion, a Scottish Cup Final and eventually administration before leaving for the first time in 2004. What are your abiding memories of your first spell at Dens Park?
GR- Well it was certainly eventful. It was a steep learning curve leaving school then joining the Youth team. Then working my way into the first team and becoming a regular, getting to a Scottish Cup Final, promotion, Scotland caps, administration etc etc. but overall my abiding memories would be of fun, highs, lows and love for the club. Giving me the opportunity to becoming a professional footballer. Something I'll never forget.
Q- You left Dundee for Rangers in 2004. Did you find playing for one of the UK's most famous clubs a major adjustment?
GR-Yes I admit, it was very difficult. I knew Rangers were a big club. But just how big they are I probably didn't realise. Things didn't go great for me in terms of injuries at Ibrox and there is a feeling of unfulfilled opportunities. But again to be part of such a huge club and experience the team winning the league on the last day was amazing. Annoying how it went for me there but it is what it is.
Q- After leaving Ibrox you had four successful years at Cardiff City. How did you enjoy testing yourself in a new environment outside of Scottish football?
GR- I absolutely loved the freshness going away to a different league with different teams and new stadiums brought me. After being injured for a while I went there and played regularly for 3/4 years. Our kids were born in Cardiff and I have nothing but fond memories of Wales.
Q- You won 14 caps for Scotland between 2001 and 2009. How much did representing your country mean to you?
GR- It meant everything to me, if I wasn't in original squads but called up I would drop everything to join up with the team. By far my proudest moments of my career. To be able to say I've played for my country, is something you never think will happen but dream. So it was amazing. My first start for my country in a qualifier was at Hampden. Dream material.
Q- After a short spell back at Dundee you joined Aberdeen in 2012. How did it feel to sign for the team you supported growing up?
GR- I had been close to joining Aberdeen over the years a few times but didn't think it would ever happen so eventually when it did I was delighted. This was the team I supported as a boy, went to watch with my dad when they had one of their best teams ever. I grew up about 15 minutes away from the stadium so to play for them when all of my close and extended family can come and watch me play for them easily was immense.
Q- When you returned to Dundee for a third and final time you captained the team during 2013/2014 season. Were you always comfortable being seen as a leader for younger players?
GR- I have always felt comfortable in a leadership position. Even in youth teams and reserves I would be captain or vice captain. So I didn't have any issue and by that stage of my career I revelled in it. To go back to the club that gave me my chance and be promoted with them as captain was a great way to bow out of my professional career.
Q- You started coaching at academy level while still playing for Aberdeen in 2012 and have since passed your UEFA A Licence and managed the reserves at Dundee. How easy was it for you to make the transition from playing to coaching?
GR- I think it has been quite smooth, I just want to help kids get better. Or anyone who is playing really. Just point out little things I notice and lean on my own experience to try and get the best out of them. I'm not an old school hairdryer treatment coach but I think I earn respect by being honest with the players in a controlled manner. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I can lose it a little. Ha.
Q- Throughout your career you worked with a number of respected managers including Jim Duffy, Alex McLeish and Dave Jones. Which managers would you say have influenced you the most in terms of your own coaching career?
GR- They all have moulded me in some way. It's impossible for that not to happen. Although you pick up the parts you like and leave the rest. You have to have your own style and philosophy and stick to it. They all had good points and big personalities and that is important also.
Q- Having worked with Ivano Bonetti at Dundee and Paul Le Guen at Rangers, would you say that there is a marked difference in methods between British and foreign coaches?
GR- I do think there is a big contrast. Not for better or worse. Just different. Le Guen demanded full concentration and no speaking of joking about really. Which is fine. Just different. Ivano and Dario were very tactically focused - and I learned a lot from them on that side of the game but wouldn't say I enjoyed the training but loved the games on a Saturday.
Q- As you will know from experience, first team managers at a professional level can have limited job security. Would that put you off becoming a manager in your own right in future?
GR- No, not really. It really is very competitive but you have to back yourself and anyone who has been a sportsman would do that. I think with my own situation, it might be difficult to do that in Australia but not impossible. It would have to be the right thing for me and my family.
Q- As well as coaching, you have been involved in a few different projects since hanging up your boots (Gavin is a director of two companies- Sport Careers Agency and clothing line Seven One Zero- as well as working a senior recruitment consultant with an IT recruitment firm in Australia). What advice would you give to current players who are planning for life after retirement?
GR- Do as much as you can while still playing. Whether that be studying or starting a small business. Don't waste time as it comes around quick. It feels like yesterday i started my first day in football and its over. In terms of when retirement does happen, don't be too proud and embrace the next part of your life. I am working hard at building a new career in Australia. Enjoy learning new skills and have an open mindset. There is plenty banter going around in offices or on the worksite also. Just enjoy it. Have an open mindset and enjoy meeting new people.
Q- Do you think enough is done to help players in Scotland plan for a career once their playing days are over?
GR- No I don't. Not just in Scotland but everywhere. I know organisations are getting better at it now but from a young age kids should know they have to study also. It should go hand in hand. Which will allow them if their career ends prematurely, to have another vocation and help the transition become easy.
Q- You joined Dundee on YTS straight from school. If you could give your 16-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
GR- Study more - have more belief in your ability - be more confident - work harder and try to improve weaknesses more.
Q- Finally, now that you are settled into your new life in Australia, what are your goals for the future?
GR- I'm working hard to be successful in my second career and want to make a go of that. Or whatever I choose to do. Make it successful. If I get a chance in football - take it. Enjoy the ride and see what happens.