Walter Smith dies aged 73; Smith enjoyed great success in two spells at Rangers and also managed Scotland and Everton
Wednesday 27 October 2021 07:04, UK
Walter Smith, who managed Scotland, Rangers and Everton, has died at the age of 73.
In two spells as Rangers manager Smith led the club to 10 top-flight titles, five Scottish Cups and six League Cups as well as to the UEFA Cup final in 2008.
He remains the club's second most successful manager after Bill Struth.
Smith had four years in charge of Everton and two with Scotland before being enticed back to the Glasgow club.
His death comes in the same year Rangers won their first Scottish Premiership title since Smith's final season in charge in 2011.
"It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our former manager, chairman and club legend, Walter Smith," the club said.
Douglas Park, the Rangers chairman, said: "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. For that, I am personally grateful. I know that he continued also to maintain dialogue with senior members of staff, including our manager, Steven Gerrard.
"Walter will be sorely missed by all of us at Rangers."
He added: "For Rangers supporters, he was much more than just a football manager. Walter was a friend to many, a leader, an ambassador and most of all - a legend."
The Scottish FA said in a statement: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the former Scotland national coach, and one of the most successful managers in Scottish football history, Walter Smith.
"The thoughts of everyone at the Scottish FA are with his friends and family at this time."
Everton chairman Bill Kenwight said: "He was one of the very best people I was lucky enough to meet in my lifetime in football.
"A man of loyalty, integrity and great talent. Strong when he needed to be but with a mischievous sense of humour that could ease even the most tense situations.
"Walter and I shared a lot together during the takeover years but amongst many, many examples of real friendship, one will always stick out.
"We had just... tearfully... agreed his farewell to Goodison, when he slapped his hands together and said 'Okay Bill, who are we going to get to manage this great club of ours?'
"Even in a moment of real sadness, he refused to put himself first...one of the true attributes of a great leader. And that's exactly what Walter Smith was. A great leader. And a great man."
"I send my personal love to Ethel and the family and know that I will be joined by everyone at Everton Football Club in saluting a husband, a dad, a grandfather, and a legendary football manager."
The Lanark-born defender's playing career saw him play for Dundee United in two spells either side of two seasons at Dumbarton, and it was during his second spell at Tannadice that a pelvic injury meant Smith made his first forays into coaching under Jim McLean.
Smith became coach of the Scotland under-18s in 1978 and the under-21s in 1982. He was also Alex Ferguson's assistant at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico before becoming assistant to Graeme Souness at Rangers later that summer.
With Souness operating as a player-manager at Ibrox, Smith was the senior coaching presence on the touchline and was given the job on a full-time basis when Souness moved to manage Liverpool in 1991.
Smith continued Rangers' domination at home and in Europe, taking the club to six Scottish top-flight titles and a domestic treble in 1992-93, the season in which the club narrowly missed out on a place in the Champions League final after finishing as runners-up in the group which was won by eventual winners Marseille.
Rangers equalled Celtic's record of nine successive championships in 1996-97 but a poor European start to the following campaign saw Smith confirm he would leave the club at the end of the campaign to join Everton.
His time at Goodison Park, however, was not a success and he was sacked in March 2002 before a brief spell as Ferguson's assistant at Manchester United at the end of the 2003-04 season.
Berti Vogts departure from the Scotland national side paved the way for Smith to become manager in December 2004. Despite overseeing a rise for Scotland of 70 places in the international rankings, they failed to reach the World Cup Finals in 2006 after a home defeat to Belarus.
Smith returned to Rangers for a second spell in January 2007 and was able to replicate the glory of his first spell, leading the club to three more league titles, two Scottish Cups, three Scottish League Cups and a UEFA Cup final, which they lost 2-0 to Zenit Saint Petersburg.
He had a three-month spell as Ibrox chairman in 2013 but resigned the position after infighting within the boardroom.
Walter Smith has been described as a "colossus" who will "never be forgotten" in a joint statement issued by former Rangers owner and chairman Sir David Murray and former Gers player-manager Graeme Souness.
Smith stepped up from assistant at Ibrox in 1991 when Souness moved to take over at Liverpool and went on to complete nine successive title wins among other successes in a period of Light Blue domestic domination.
Smith left in 1998 to manage Everton and then Scotland before returning to Ibrox in 2007 to take over the hot seat for another four years.
Murray took over the Ibrox club in 1988 and left in 2011.
The statement read: "Scottish football has lost one of its finest. Even in the proud history of Glasgow Rangers, Walter Smith stands out as a colossus. He will never be forgotten.
"His 21 titles and trophies between 1991 and 2011 not only earned respect in the Scottish and British game but across the entire footballing world.
"The Rangers family has lost someone very special.
"Walter had a profound effect on both of our lives - certainly as a manager and a leader and a wise and trusted adviser but always as a close and treasured friend. He made time for so many people.
"Both of us had spoken to him privately over the past few weeks. The topic rarely strayed from football. Our thoughts are with Ethel, Steven, Neil and their families."
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard said:
"Walter was an incredible leader. He epitomised everything that this club stands for. His DNA is all over the club.
"He's been right behind me since day one. We've had many lunches, dinners, coffees and chats and private time in my office so he's going to be a big loss.
"He gave many, many years to this football club. He loved the club. He was honest, he was genuine and he's made me a better person.
"I've been the lucky one to know him and spend time with him."
Former Rangers and Scotland striker Ally McCoist, who was a key player during Smith's hugely successful first reign at the Ibrox helm and was assistant manager for his second stint, told Talksport:
"He means everything to a lot of folk. He was my boss, my coach, my second father and then turned into one of my best friends.
"The loss is absolutely incredible.
"The good thing is he's not in pain. I went to see Walter recently, I spoke to him at the weekend and we knew that it would be a matter of time. But it still does not take away the pain and the grief.
"I could sit here and tell you about Walter Smith until the cows come home, but what I will say he was the best husband, father, friend, everything you want from a man.
"I can't tell you how devastated I am."
Sir Alex Ferguson told Manchester United's official website:
"Walter was a special person. 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.
"In all that time you were dealing with a man with great moral compass in how he lived his life and the friendship he offered so many people. His contribution to football with Dundee United, Rangers, Scotland, Everton and Man United was immense.
"He was only at United a short time. But he was fantastic. I lost Carlos Queiroz to Real Madrid and I knew I needed an assistant so I phoned Walter about it and he came for six months and helped us win the FA Cup against Millwall. He had a wonderful connection with people because he was a great listener, that was one of his greatest qualities.
"He listened and showed an interest in people and helped everyone he could. It's such a loss to the game and to everyone that knew him. I send my sincere condolences to his wife Ethel and his two sons Neil and Steven. I'll miss him greatly."
Former Everton striker Kevin Campbell, speaking to Sky Sports News:
"Walter Smith was so vital for me coming to Everton. I'm forever indebted to that man. The way he was as a person, his character, he was such a great, great person and a great man.
"I don't think Everton could have had a better manager at that time (for that situation). The dignity, the character, the class he had on the inside. He'd challenge the players, make sure they were up to the challenge. The club weren't doing great but the players and the atmosphere was always good and it was because of him (and Archie Knox)."
On managing Paul Gascoigne: "He took all the difficult moments on. Dealing with Gazza's not easy […] but Paul respected Walter so much and didn't ever want to let him down. Walter was the caring father figure to him who could let him be himself but when he had to put him in line he did! When Gazza came to Everton, he spoke so highly of Walter."