Interview: ESPN football commentator Derek Rae

Interview: ESPN's Derek Rae
© PA Photos
ESPN commentator Derek Rae talks to Sports Mole about his affection for the Bundesliga, Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa and his career so far.

Derek Rae is one of the most experienced football commentators in the business.

The Scot has worked for a number of different companies in a wide variety of countries. Now working for ESPN, we caught with Rae to discuss his career, his love of the Bundesliga and Shinji Kagawa.

Many would look at your work with envy. Do you have the dream job?
"It is. I'm very blessed and feel very blessed to do the job that I do. Of course there is a lot of hard work but on a fundamental level, to get paid to talk about football and in my case to talk about football in a variety of countries, it is the dream job. I always felt that getting into the business, I didn't want to limit myself to one country or just two or three clubs. I wanted to have a breadth of knowledge and proceeded on that basis. I do love it and I think you have to love it."

Many members of the media say that they got involved in journalism after realising they were never going to make it as a professional footballer. Was it the same for you?
"It was exactly that for me. I used to play the game as a kid and realised pretty quickly that I had no future as a professional footballer, only as willing amateur. I moved into the broadcasting side of things as soon as I could. Even as a seven-year-old I was making tapes to myself just chattering away. I used to go to the local reserves game in Aberdeen and just do my own little commentaries. I was also lucky because I grew up in Aberdeen at a time when a chap by the name of Alex Ferguson was the manager. It was an incredible era for the club and I was exposed to him a little bit when I was working for radio and the BBC. It was a very exciting time and a great way to get started."

A lot of your work takes you to Germany and the Bundesliga. Would it be fair to say that it hasn't been given the coverage and credit that it perhaps deserves in recent years?
"I'm a bit biased for two reasons. One, I cover the Bundesliga, and two, I studied in Germany and speak the language so I have an affinity with it. On a neutral level I think the Bundesliga has been the forgotten league in some respects. I've a feeling in the next few years that its profile will be enhanced because you'll find that people that haven't seen it before don't have an opinion on it. Then they watch a game and they are drawn to the standard of play and the openness. The atmosphere inside the grounds is also an attraction. What they've managed to do in the Bundesliga is keep the good points of the 1970s and 1980s atmosphere and eradicate the bad. There isn't a lot of trouble in German football and people still have their big steins of beer! There's less of a corporate culture with German football. You can get into some grounds for around £10."

Can the Premier League learn from the Bundesliga?
"There's a lot we can all learn from the German model and I think the accessibility is the major thing. For me the Bundesliga is a success story and they've done it by concentrating on the football and not the periphery. It's just a really compelling league."

Borussia Dortmund have dominated over the past two years. Can Bayern Munich wrestle back the initiative this season?
"I do think it's Bayern's season. Jupp Heynckes, the coach now, has a wide variety of attacking options and he does not always have to play Ribery or Robben together. He's signed Mario Mandzukic and he has had a really good start. They've bought quite wisely and I think the feeling in Munich this year is that they have to do it. They've played second fiddle to Dortmund in both the league and cup and they just feel that it's high time that changes."

Would you say that there is a lot of pressure on Heynckes to deliver the goods this season?
"I think so. He's in his third spell there and I think he is 67 years old. He's a bit of a legendary coaching figure but it has been eating away at everybody that Dortmund have been dominating. The evidence of the first few weeks is that Bayern look a lot better in most positions. I was worried a bit about their back four but I think they've addressed that. If you're a Bayern supporter I think there is a lot to be excited about."

One player that left Germany in the summer was Shinji Kagawa. Do you think he will be a success at Manchester United?
"I think he will be. When he came in at Dortmund he was a bit of an unknown quantity. He wasn't picked by Japan for the 2010 World Cup and everybody was thinking how could you not pick a player like that? He made the move to Dortmund for a small fee and it was slightly under the radar. He took to it like a fish to water. He's very dynamic and in the Bundesliga it would be fair to say that you get a lot more space. It's not as tight as it is in Premier League so it will probably take his teammates at United a bit of time to adapt to him and the other way around. He's an intelligent player and I think when he cracks it he'll score a lot of goals and be very influential."

And what about Marko Marin at Chelsea? Injuries have limited him so far but can he have a successful stint at Stamford Bridge?
"I hope he gets his chance. In Germany it's fashionable to have these small, ball-playing midfielders. I'm hoping that we see more of that in the Premier League and I think it's beginning to happen. He's going to need to have a bit of luck at Chelsea and find himself in the team at the right time because he's got a lot of competition there. I think he's good enough but I think that when you go to one of the clubs in that stratosphere you have to be more than good."

Derek Rae was speaking ahead of ESPN's upcoming Premier League and European football matches. Visit espn.co.uk/tv for details.

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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Bayern Munich19142340132744
2Bayer LeverkusenB. Leverkusen1987439271231
3RB Leipzig199463128331
4Borussia MonchengladbachBorussia M'bach199463030031
5Borussia DortmundDortmund1986540251530
6Schalke 04Schalke188642924530
7Eintracht FrankfurtFrankfurt198652420430
8Augsburg197662825327
9Hoffenheim197662927227
10Hannover187562728-126
11Hertha Berlin196762727025
12Freiburg195862033-1323
13Wolfsburg1931152224-220
14Stuttgart1962111624-820
15Mainz 05195592433-920
16Werder Bremen194781521-619
17Hamburger SV1943121528-1315
18FC Koln1933131433-1912
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