Rangers have announced the death of their celebrated former manager Walter Smith at the age of 73. Smith, who also took charge of Everton and Scotland, won 21 trophies during two spells in charge at Ibrox. That makes him the second most successful Rangers manager, behind Bill Struth.
Smith was appointed by Rangers in April 1991 after Graeme Souness, to whom he had been assistant, left for Liverpool. Smith proceeded to deliver seven of Rangers’ record-equalling nine titles in a row. At the time, Rangers were among the most prominent clubs in Europe. Smith kickstarted the career of Paul Gascoigne after the midfielder’s spell at Lazio.
Smith left Ibrox in 1998, spending four years at Everton. He rejuvenated the Scotland national team from 2004 before being coaxed back to Ibrox three years later. Smith led Rangers to the 2008 Uefa Cup final amid the claiming of eight domestic honours before retiring from management in 2011.
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.”
Smith, a close friend of Alex Ferguson, briefly served as his fellow Scot’s assistant at Manchester United. He was also assistant to Jim McLean during a time of wonderful success at Dundee United. Smith had spent the vast majority of his playing career at Tannadice. It was at Rangers, though, that he made his most significant mark.
Park said: “Winning 10 top-flight titles as manager, five Scottish Cups and six League Cups, as well as leading his club to the Uefa Cup final in 2008, he will be remembered by the football community across the world. His spells as Scotland manager as well as managing in the English Premier League underlined his credentials as one of the great modern-day football managers.
“However, 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.”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, paid tribute to a “true football great”.
Celtic said in a statement: “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.”