ALEX Rae put Notts County’s FA Cup victory over Sunderland down to honesty and hard work – but he probably touched wood when he said it.
In a sign that the League One side leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of success, it was Rae – County’s assistant boss – who faced the media afterwards, rather than manager Paul Ince.
“It’s just a superstition,” explained the former Sunderland midfielder. “I’ve met the Press after games for the last five or six weeks and we’re undefeated in that time.
“So we’ll keep on going with me meeting you until we get defeated!”
It’s one of the amusing incongruities of professional football that, despite moving towards an ever more scientific and controlled approach to the sport, it still finds room for not tempting fate; for pre-match lucky charms and post-match lucky rituals.
Not that Rae or Ince needed any help from any rabbit’s foot or four-leaf clover – their team fully deserved their fine cup victory on an afternoon in which Sunderland laboured.
“If you’re going to get something from top teams you have to work incredibly hard and that’s what we did,” said the Scot.
“We rode our luck a little at times, but, in the end, I think we can be happy with the way we performed.
“Our first goal might’ve been fortunate, but I thought we were quite comfortable, first-half, and once we got that goal, we had something to cling on to. We might even have nicked a second before the break through Craig Westcarr – the keeper saved with his feet.
“It always felt as though we would need a second goal, given the quality of the Sunderland side we were facing, but, thankfully, we were able to soak up the pressure they put us under, second-half, and hit them on the break.
“We’re absolutely thrilled with the result and full credit has to go to the players – they were outstanding.”
It was a happy return to Wearside for the 41-year-old who made more than 100 appearances for the club between 1996-2001 and remains a good friend of chairman Niall Quinn.
Rae smiled: “It’s always great coming back here, whatever the occasion. It’s a special place and it has a special place in my heart. but it’s nice for us to come to a Premier League club and get a win.
“I’ve been part of Millwall sides that have gone to Chelsea and Arsenal and got through and I know how good that is for the fans. It’s a great achievement to be part of teams that have got through when they’re underdogs – everyone feels great and fans live for days like these.”