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.
Commenting on the sad news that Helensburgh resident, football legend and former Rangers and Scotland manager Water Smith has died, Jackie Baillie MSP said: “I send my deepest condolences to Walter’s wife, Ethel, family and friends at this sad time.
The Dumbarton team when Walter played for the Sons. That’s him front row, extreme right. Names in clude Alex Wright, Lawrie Williams, John Bourke, ‘Jumbo’ Muir, Donald McNeill, Columb McKinley, Bobby Holmes and Davy Wilson. In front, three from left is Muro MacLeod then Johnny Graham and Ian Wallace. If you have more names please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
“He is most well-known for his hugely successful career as Rangers manager but Walter also played for our local team, Dumbarton FC and it was while Walter was playing for Dumbarton that we managed to reach the semi-final of the Scottish Cup in 1976.
“Walter was a giant in Scottish and international football and his legacy will live on, inspiring generations of football fans for years to come.”
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.”
Although I was in Walter Smith’s company from time to time, I cannot claim to have known him well, at least not as well as my good friend, Rangers’ fan and charity fund-raiser Iain Forbes.
He said: “I feel so very sad that Walter Smith has lost his battle against illness. Everyone I know looked up to him, respected him and admired him. Firstly as a true and caring family man and my thoughts are with this loving wife Ethel and all of his family.
“He was a highly knowledgeable and skilled football manager who brought great success to Rangers football club and is adored by all fans. He was also a tremendous and generous supporter of charity and the last time Walter was able to be at a Variety Scotland fundraising event he spoke warmly about Graeme Souness.
“His work for our charity was recognised many years ago when he was made a Celebrity Ambassador and he and Ethel faithfully attended our Annual Ball with their close friends.
Walter Smith on duty as manager of Scotland’s international squad.quad.