Scotland v England: Q&A with STV commentator Derek Rae

The rivalry between two of football’s biggest enemies will be renewed on Tuesday night as Scotland face England in Glasgow and who better to talk to about this highly-anticipated clash than Derek Rae.

One of the most distinguished and versatile football broadcasters, Derek will be behind the microphone for STV as its match commentator on what promises to be a memorable night at Celtic Park.

A proud Scotsman and a familiar voice to fans all around the world, Derek has commentated on international football for more than twenty years and currently works for BT Sport here in the UK as its lead commentator on Scottish football, as well as calling a varied portfolio of matches from the FA Cup, Europa League, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1.

Derek’s distinctive tones have also been heard on ITV’s FA Cup coverage over the past few seasons, as well as on Celtic’s matches in the Champions League for STV.

As well as his work for UK broadcasters, he is also a familiar voice to football fans across the pond, having been part of American sports broadcaster ESPN’s commentary team for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer.

Derek made his broadcasting debut with BBC Scotland in 1986, where he was name named ‘Sony British Sports Broadcaster of the Year’ for his work as a football commentator.

After leaving the corporation in 1991, he moved to Boston, USA, initially to serve as a press officer for the organizing committee of the 1994 World Cup, before later joining ESPN as one of its leading football commentators, working on Champions League and high-profile international matches.

After many years based stateside, Derek relocated back to the UK in 2010, commentating on Scottish, English and European football games for ESPN’s UK channel until 2013, before moving subsequently across to BT Sport, where he is now one of their most prominent match commentators.

Derek’s attentions will now turn to preparing for his commentary on the 112th meeting between Scotland and England, with Roy Hodgson’s men visiting Glasgow a year on from the last meeting between the two teams at Wembley.

Despite memorable goals from James Morrison and Kenny Miller, Gordon Strachan’s Scotland went down 3-2 at Wembley and will be keen to claim revenge over the ‘Auld Enemy’.

Ahead of the big match on Tuesday (November 18), Derek spoke to Sport On The Box about his memories of this much cherished fixture and what viewers can expect from STV’s coverage on the night.

.

Follow Derek on Twitter: @RaeComm

.

SOTB: What are your personal memories of Scotland v England encounters over the years as both a commentator and fan? 

Derek Rae: This fixture was always the most important game of the year for me as a young football fan growing up in Aberdeen in the 1970s.

It was always live on TV around the same time every year and Scotland seemed to win at least as often as not.

I remember wee Jimmy Johnstone celebrating in 1974 wearing Peter Shilton’s shirt about 5 sizes too big for him, having swapped with the England keeper. 1977 at Wembley seemed to cement in the minds of Scotland fans that we had the better team.

There were many Wembley triumphs for Scotland back then and the game itself also helped launch my own career.

In April 1986, while still a university student, I was given my first radio commentary by BBC Radio Scotland, a second tier match between Kilmarnock and Dumbarton.

My great radio hero David Francey has been laid low with a knee injury and hadn’t recovered when the next game came around. The small matter of England against Scotland at Wembley the following midweek!

That was my second professional commentary. England won 2-1 but I’ll never forget that night.

.

The match at Celtic Park will the 112th meeting between the two teams.

What for you has made Scotland/England games so special in years gone by, and how much are you looking forward to commentating on the latest renewal of international football’s oldest rivalry?

It’s the definitive international rivalry. The fountainhead if you like and something we should cherish.

I believe the football administrators need to have a good look at themselves. Why was this fixture scrapped?

I accept the demands of competitive action are ever greater but how often do we complain about ‘meaningless friendlies’.

This has never been meaningless. I’m thoroughly looking forward to it.

.

You commentated on the previous England/Scotland encounter at Wembley in August 2013 for STV.

Do you think the rivalry between the two nations on the pitch is still as strong and passionate today?

It’s different in that many years ago there were altogether fewer international fixtures, so this was always going to mean more say in the 60s or 70s.

I think the goal now has to be to get this game back on the card once every two years.

Brazil and Argentina seem to manage to play each other regularly, so Scotland and England should be able to do the same. Then the rivalry can be properly rekindled.

.

.

Tuesday’s friendly in Glasgow will be a rare treat for Scottish fans as they will be able to watch their team live on free-to-air television.

What will the STV team have in store for viewers on the night?

It’s always a pleasure to be invited to commentate on the national team for Scotland’s national commercial broadcaster.

The main angle will be an unashamedly Scottish one. That doesn’t mean biased commentary but rather a strong emphasis on the Scottish narrative.

Former Scotland captain Gary McAllister, who I work with weekly for BT Sport will join me for match commentary.

Studio presenter Raman Bhardwaj will have an array of interesting guests. Robert Snodgrass can give us insight into Gordon Strachan’s thinking, having played for him very recently.

Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes will also be in studio and is always a strong contributor, and who better to provide the English angle than Terry Butcher?

.

There seems to be a rejuvenated feeling around the Scotland team at the moment, particularly off the back of Saturday’s victory over the Republic of Ireland in the European Qualfiers.

What is your verdict on Gordon Strachan’s tenure as manager so far, and who do you pick out as the key players for his team on Tuesday?

Yes, for a whole generation of Scottish fans, watching the national team has involved more pain than gain. Gordon Strachan is the right man for the job.

I think the rhythm of it all, suits him at this stage of his career. He has the national team playing eye catching football again.

He has also found a system that works for Scotland. I will say as well, the younger players are coming through again.

Just look at Andy Robertson, an amateur footballer 18 months ago and now one of the best players in the side, as he showed against the Irish on Friday.

I also think Steven Naismith and Shaun Maloney are integral to his plans, and Scott Brown is a true leader on the pitch.

.

Scotland have made positive start in their quest to qualify for Euro 2016. What chances do you give for Strachan’s side of qualifying for the tournament in France in two years time?

It’s proving to be a very difficult group so Scotland are having to do it the hard way, but the performances so far have been positive.

If we get more of the same, I think there’s an excellent chance Scotland will be back at a major tournament for the first time since 1998.

But there’s a lot of work still to be done.

.

Some high-profile figures within the sport down the years have called for the return of regular Home Nations Internationals to the football calendar?

Is this something you would welcome?

I would but am struggling to see where we would put it in the calendar. That’s just being honest.

We tried a scaled down version a few years ago with the Republic of Ireland replacing England but it didn’t catch fire or attract interest.

.

You cover on a wide variety of football during the season, primarily for BT Sport, covering everything from the SPFL and FA Cup to Serie A and other European fixtures.

Could you give an insight into how you manage the balance as a commentator of working on so many different leagues and teams?

That’s the aspect of commentary work most people never see or think of. It is a constant juggling act with the watching, reading, scribbling.

Luckily, I’m quite good at preparing for games on trains and planes, but it’s quite a solitary job and you can spend a whole day on just two teams.

I did that the other day researching Maidstone United and Stevenage. That’s just for starters!

.

Finally, what is your verdict on how Tuesday’s big match will go? Can Scotland pull off victory?

I think they can and will even go as far as to predict a Scottish victory. 2-1.

.

Hear Derek in action as part of STV’s live coverage of Scotland v England

.

.