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Football mourns former Scotland, Rangers and Everton manager Walter Smith

Walter Smith File Photo
(Image credit: Lynne Cameron)

The world of football and beyond is mourning former Scotland, Rangers and Everton manager Walter Smith, who has died aged 73.

The news was announced by Rangers, for whom Smith won 10 Scottish titles, five Scottish Cups and six League Cups over two spells in charge, as well as leading them to the UEFA Cup final in 2008. He retired in 2011 but had a brief spell as the club’s chairman.

Smith had been suffering from a long illness but still had a major influence on current Rangers manager Steven Gerrard, who fought back tears as he declared his mentor had “made me a better person”.

Smith and McCoist

Walter Smith, left, and Ally McCoist on the training ground (Lynne Cameron/PA)

Another of Smith’s proteges, Ally McCoist, described his pain for Smith’s family.

“At this moment in time, all I can think about is (wife) Ethel, (sons) Neil and Steven and his grandkids,” the former Rangers striker, assistant manager and manager told talkSPORT.

“All Walter would have wanted was another few years to watch those grandkids play football and spend a lot of time with Jessica and them all, and sadly that’s the most painful thing for me right now.

“I could sit here and tell you about Walter Smith until the cows come home, about how good a manager, how good a coach, how good a football man he was.

“But I think I can safely say he was the best husband, the best father, the best friend – everything you’d expect in a man.”

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The former Dundee United and Dumbarton player made his name in coaching under Jim McLean at Tannadice, helping the previously unfancied club to the 1983 Scottish league title and the European Cup semi-finals the following year.

After assisting Sir Alex Ferguson during Scotland’s 1986 World Cup campaign in Mexico, Smith accepted an invitation from Graeme Souness to perform the same role at Ibrox.

Smith succeeded Souness in April 1991 and went on to secure a record-equalling nine consecutive titles before leaving in 1998 and joining Everton.

After another spell as Ferguson’s assistant with Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup, Smith served as Scotland manager during 2005 and 2006 before returning to Rangers, where he won another three successive titles.

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Rangers chairman Douglas Park said on the club’s website: “It is almost impossible to encapsulate what Walter meant to every one of us at Rangers.

“He embodied everything that a Ranger should be. His character and leadership was second to none, and will live long in the memory of everyone he worked with during his two terms as first-team manager.

“I spoke with Walter as recently as last weekend. Even when he was battling illness, he was still able to provide advice and support.”

Walter Smith Tributes

Fans look at tributes laid at Ibrox Stadium (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The club held a minute’s silence in training on Tuesday morning in tribute to Smith and there will be further tributes ahead of their league meeting with Aberdeen on Wednesday. Fans left personal tributes outside Ibrox Stadium.

Condolences came in from across football including Smith’s other former clubs, such as Everton, who said: “The Scot was a tremendously popular figure at Everton, players and staff unanimously warming to Smith’s genial and empathetic nature.”

Scottish Football Association president Rod Petrie added: “Scottish football has lost an all-time great today. Walter’s stature in the game cannot be overstated and he is a rare example of someone who truly deserves the legendary status that has been bestowed upon him.”

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Manchester United were “deeply saddened” by the news and Ferguson was “absolutely devastated” by the death of his close friend.

“Walter was a special person,” Sir Alex said. “He fought his illness with great courage.

“He was a great friend of mine for years and years, I had him as my assistant at United in 2004 and he was also my assistant when Scotland went to the World Cup in 1986.

“I send my sincere condolences to his wife Ethel and his two sons Neil and Steven. I’ll miss him greatly.”

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Celtic also sent their “heartfelt condolences”.

“Clearly, this is absolutely devastating news and our thoughts and prayers are very much with Walter’s wife, children and wider family at this very sad time,” Rangers’ rivals said.

“Walter was a tremendous servant to Scottish football for so many years, and during his time as manager of the Scotland national side, he forged a close friendship with Celtic legend, Tommy Burns, who was part of the coaching set-up.”

Politicians also paid tribute with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, calling Smith a “true football great” and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown describing him as a “gentle giant of Scottish football”.

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