WHERE once there was curiosity, now there is caring and compassion for Gordon Smith as he remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice and helps those who served their country during its darkest and most difficult days.

Throughout his playing career, Smith was surrounded by people that Press and punters would laud as heroes. In his later years – whether it be as an agent, pundit, the chief executive of the Scottish FA or the Director of Football at Rangers – Smith would place different emphasis on the value of money and what benefit it could bring.

Today, it is all about the importance of £1million for Smith as the Rangers Supporters Erskine Appeal celebrates a landmark moment in their fundraising drive. Some have given more, but every contribution has been invaluable to the cause to support true heroes.

It is one that has long been close to Smith’s heart. His grandfather, George Bullock, served in the Army during the First World War, fighting at Gallipoli and the Somme, and the 66-year-old now holds the honour of being President of the RSEA as he succeeds Ibrox legend Harold Davis.

“When I was doing History at school, we were covering the First World War and I tried to speak to my grandpa about it and he wouldn’t talk about it,” Smith told Herald and Times Sport.

“At first, I couldn’t understand it. He had been at the Somme and it was only when I began to hear and read more about it that I understood what it was like for those people.

“You found out what it was like for those soldiers involved in the War and you think of the tens of thousands killed on the first day of the Somme.

HeraldScotland: Black Watch squaddie Callum Robson displays the first ever RSEA pin badge sold to raise funds for Erskine, with RSEA president Gordon Smith alongside Erskine chief executive Ian CummingBlack Watch squaddie Callum Robson displays the first ever RSEA pin badge sold to raise funds for Erskine, with RSEA president Gordon Smith alongside Erskine chief executive Ian Cumming

“I understood then why he wouldn’t talk about it. It clearly had a big emotional effect on him, and it made me realise that some tragically lost their lives, some had physical scars and many had mental scars from what they experienced.

“He got wounded at the Somme and while he recovered physically, the mental wounds were still there for him many years later.

“A lot of the time, they were called up and not volunteering. My grandfather was actually a soldier before the War started so he had decided to be in the Army, but obviously couldn’t foresee what would happen.

“His very first battle was Gallipoli and later he was at the Somme as well. He fought in two of the most well-known battles of the First World War.”

The RSEA, the brainchild of Rangers supporter Tom Clark, was launched in 2007 to raise funds for Erskine and to aid the support and care of veterans and their families.

Through charity walks and badges, golf days and dinners, the RSEA have contributed to projects such as a Sporting Memories Room, the refurbishment of the physiotherapy department in The Erskine Home and, most recently, the purchase of a hybrid vehicle.

READ: Rangers legends thank Ibrox fans as Erskine appeal breaks £1million barrier

There has always been a natural draw for Smith given his family history with the Armed Forces and the affiliation that Rangers and their fans have with the Services and those who support our veterans.

“I knew the importance of the Charity for the soldiers and the veterans and I was delighted to get involved in terms of working at the dinners and at the fundraisers,” Smith said.

“I obviously had that connection to Rangers, but that was allied to a cause that was close to my heart and someone that I have always felt is very worthwhile.

“Soldiers went and had to give their all for their country and even when they returned, they still suffered hardship. Too many never came home and their families were left without a son, a father, a brother.

HeraldScotland: Black Watch squaddie Callum Robson alongside Erskine chief executive Tom Cumming, RSEA president Gordon Smith, and RSEA secretary Tom ClarkBlack Watch squaddie Callum Robson alongside Erskine chief executive Tom Cumming, RSEA president Gordon Smith, and RSEA secretary Tom Clark

“There are different aspects of it, some are willing to talk about their experiences and how they feel and others don’t. You can see how War and the service of the veterans has impacted on them differently and still impacts them in different ways.

“It is fascinating to hear the stories from the veterans, but equally you are very understanding when someone perhaps doesn’t want to share their stories.

“I have been there as a young boy, I have seen that with my grandfather and I understand the affect that these experiences can have on people.”

The tales that Smith has heard and the work that he has seen at close hand continue to inspire the 66-year-old and his new role as President is a proud moment for a man that enjoyed a stellar career with the likes of Kilmarnock and Brighton as well as Rangers.

The story of predecessor Davis remains a remarkable one. He would sustain life-threatening injuries during his service in Korea with the Black Watch but recovered to resume his playing career and join Rangers in 1956.

Three league titles, two League Cups and a Scottish Cup were earned at Ibrox and Davis was a constant source of strength and support to the RSEA and Erskine until his death in June 2018. His legacy lives on and the work will continue to honour Davis and those like him.

Smith said: “The Rangers support have done a fantastic board and they have really taken on board the importance of the Armed Forces and the veterans that need their help today. They have raised a phenomenal amount of money for the RSEA and I am delighted to have played my part in helping them do that.

“It is so crucial to the charity and I can’t thank the supporters enough for all their hard work and their fundraising efforts. It is tremendous, it really is, and these people don’t earn anything for it, they are just volunteers that believe in the cause and want to support people that are so worthy of our help.

HeraldScotland: Black Watch squaddie Callum Robson displays the first ever RSEA pin badge sold to raise funds for ErskineBlack Watch squaddie Callum Robson displays the first ever RSEA pin badge sold to raise funds for Erskine

“The RSEA are a credit to the Rangers support. The funds raised for Erskine are fantastic. Having been a patron I have seen first-hand the work that goes in to helping the ex-servicemen and women looked after by Erskine. To follow on from the legendary Harold Davis as President is a huge challenge and one I am looking forward to."

You can support Erskine at: www.erskine.org.uk/support-our-work/donate/