HE has been at the heart of the men's game, as player, agent, official and pundit, for more decades than he cares to admit.

But Gordon Smith has a little secret: he really enjoys watching women play too. And he thinks boys have a lot to learn from girls on how they behave on the pitch.

Smith, former chief executive of the SFA, championed women's football when he was in charge at Hampden.

As he prepares to take part in the latest of The Herald on Sunday’s Cool Conversations, he explained why.

"I was very supportive of it when I was at the SFA. We had girls who were coming through. I know a lot of people are totally against women's football. I am not. At one time the women's game was not considered to be of a very high standard. Well, I don't agree with that now. The standard is improving very quickly. And our national women's team are doing really well. Technically we see a lot of high-class players and they know how to play the game.

"So I think our women are very much worth watching, especially now that Scotland are up there competing with other teams in the world who were far ahead of us at one time."

Smith says he jumps for joy when Scotland women score - as they did when they beat Brazil last week. "I love to see that," he said. "I think the audience for the women's game will grow."

Women, said Smith, may not be able to compete with men at the highest level, but that does not mean their on-field competition with each other has to be any less exciting or aggressive.

He said: "It is the same for any sport. No matter what anybody says, women would not compete with men at Wimbledon or at the Olympics if it was open to both sexes, just because of the physicality.

"That does not take away from the fact that women's sport is technically very good and exciting to watch. And it is good to see our teams compete at the highest level."

Male footballers, moreover, he said. should learn from the women’s game on how to be aggressive without cheating.

He said: “When I was at the SFA I brought in the retrospective punishment for cheating - or simulation as they call it. That was one thing I wanted to change in the game.

“This is not something you get in the women’s game. Women don’t overreact to tackle. People see the women are aggressive but they can take the challenges without all the showmanship.”

Smith - along with Partick Thistle chairwoman Jacqui Low - will talk to football vlogger Si Ferry, one of The Herald on Sunday’s 100 coolest Scots, and TV presenter Amy Irons and the Edinburgh Grand on April 18.

To book tickets for the April 18 event, just go to the Edinburgh Grand website at www.lateralcity.com/events