Helping Wolves to reach their most important game in decades was always going to be top of the list when it came to Alex Rae’s most memorable match in gold and black.
The former Wolves midfielder is the latest guest on the Old Gold Club’s My Golden Game podcast, as he joins Mikey Burrows to discuss scoring the vital goal in the 2003 play-off semi-final against Reading to put the club one step away from a return to top-flight football for the first time in almost 20 years.
Despite having to play second fiddle to Paul Ince and Colin Cameron for much of the promotion-winning campaign, Rae was the man of the moment when he came off the bench at the Madejski Stadium to hit a late winner back on 14th May 2003.
On securing a place in the final
“When you think about the actual game, Reading had a lion’s share of possession that night and it was really backs to the wall. I thought they were excellent and had a lot of young, up and coming guys who were just starting their career.
“Thankfully, we got the job done, because that was the catalyst to go on and get the result in the final.
“When you look at some of the young players who they had, they were very good players, so just to get to Cardiff at that time, it was great and an iconic moment.”
On coming off the bench
“Every time I went into any game, regardless of whether it was a play-off game or whatever, I always thought I could impact it.
“At Millwall, I was known as ‘Hot-Shot Hamish’, because I was looking to take a shot from anywhere, and players would say that I was greedy – they probably had a point as well. I always felt that if I had an opportunity in and around the box, whether it was from distance or instinctive.
“Most people had me down as an aggressive tackler, but I always had an instinct for goals, and I always had that feeling that I could make a difference.
“When I look back over all the years, I don’t think I could recall a goal similar to that; getting my back to goal in and around the 18-yard box, turning and doing a few jinks. I couldn’t off the top of my head replicate one like that.
“I managed to drag it back through Ady Williams’ legs and put it into the far corner, so I always felt as if I could impact games.”
On his decisive goal
“I don’t think you could label anyone like me ‘Bergkamp-esque’, but it was very strange, and I didn’t usually receive the ball in that way.
“I used to come on to things at the edge of the box, where I could get a little stepover and get a shot off, or someone like Blakey would lay it off and you’d come onto it and get a shot off, or you’d have a cross where you’d get across the face of someone.
“It was a totally unique type of goal for me, but I think that’s what caught them out. As soon as it goes through the defenders’ legs, then the goalkeeper is more than likely going to be unsighted and rooted to the spot. Fortunately, that’s what happened, and it went into the far corner.
“As soon as you hit it, you know that it’s going to have a chance. Then, you’re just waiting for the net to ripple, because once you get the shot off, you know that the goalkeeper is unsighted, and because you hit it early as well, they normally get flat-footed.
“It’s really down to the connection. Everybody is content in trying and curl balls into the top corner, and sometimes, it’s the ones you drag through people’s legs that give the goalkeeper no chance.”
On his celebration
“What I remember about it is the worst celebration that I’ve ever done. It was an absolute shambles; pirouetting in front of the Wolves fans and making an arse of myself, but there was a lot more to that celebration than a lot of the Wolves fans actually knew
“During the warm-up, we would run from the touchline to the 18-yard box, spin back out and come back to the line.
“This was maybe about 40 minutes before kick-off and there was hardly anyone in the stadium, but this Reading fan runs from the half-way line, about 30 yards, and he runs right down the touchline and he starts shouting to Paul Ince, ‘Ince, you’re an arsehole’, which all the players absolutely loved!
“I was winding up Incey and while we were doing our stretches, Incey said, ‘If any of us score, we have to go to this guy, we have to go to him and give him pelters.’
“As I scored the goal, it dawned on me, and I started pointing to the guy’s seat. He’s sat down with his head in his hands, and me, Paul Ince and the boys start berating this Reading fan.”