WITH the second tier of NSW’s football leagues beckoning for the 2015 season, Hakoah Sydney City East FC has bolstered its playing and coaching stocks by securing the services of former Scottish international, Gavin Rae.
On top of 14 caps for his country, Rae, 36, boasts an imposing resume that saw him star in the upper echelons of English football. Hakoah’s new recruit spent four seasons at Championship League side Cardiff City, making 130 appearances during which he was heavily involved in the club’s run to the 2008 FA Cup final.
Rae has also made over 300 appearances for Scottish Premiership side Dundee FC, played 50 games for Aberdeen FC and featured 35 times for arguably Scotland’s most famous club, the Glasgow Rangers.
As a recent emigrant to Australia, Rae told The AJN he was keen on continuing his football career.
“I spoke to a couple of Premier League clubs in Australia, but for me it was more important to be part of something special,” Rae said.
“What Hakoah Sydney City East FC is building at the moment suited me perfectly on arrival in a new country. I see a football club with an ambition to keep progressing and enhance their stature in the game.
“I hope I can help develop the players throughout the club, with the experience I have gained in my own playing and coaching career which will only benefit Hakoah going forward.”
Signing a player of Rae’s ability is a huge coup for Hakoah, a transition made smoother by the close relationship between Rae and coach Mark Robertson.
Hakoah president Michael Katz said this link was key, but the addition of the Scottish midfielder had equally as much to do with the club’s well-known standing in Australian football.
“Aside from his relationship with [Hakoah coach Robertson], the main selling point was the atmosphere, ambitions and story of Hakoah,” Katz said.
“We’re excited to have someone of Gavin’s calibre, both as a player and a coach, which will allow others to learn from his amazing experience and knowledge.
“We’re not sure what Lloyd’s [Owusu] plans are, but wouldn’t they be a handful if they do line up together next season.”
Attacking football has been a staple of Hakoah’s style, a realisation of the vision from manager Robertson, who says heading the club’s first grade side is “the highlight of my young coaching career” and is thrilled to have Rae’s football talent and brains at his disposal.
“I now have my good friend Gavin to add to the list of terrific coaching staff at the club,” Robertson said.
“He will also offer his professionalism on the field while mentoring the club’s younger players. To have an influence at this club of someone who has played over 400 professional league games and played for Scotland is an absolute privilege to all of us at the club. He is a great guy and very approachable.”
There’s no disillusion that Hakoah’s promotion spells a big step up in opposition talent and depth, but Robertson said he is confident heading into 2015.
“Having a strong belief of how we would like all teams in the club to play, will be instrumental in the attractive brand of football we want to play next season and beyond at Hakoah.”