Born: February 24, 1948;

Died: October 26, 2021

WALTER SMITH, who has died aged 73, was one of the most successful managers in Scottish football history, winning 21 major trophies in two separate spells at Rangers.

However, there was much more to his life and football career than just his distinguished, awards-laden time at Ibrox.

Walter Ferguson Smith was born in Lanark in February, 1948, and grew up in Carmyle in Glasgow’s east end. He was just seven when his grandfather Jock took him to Ibrox on the local supporters’ bus to his first Rangers game – a 6-0 Scottish League Cup victory over Queen of the South on September 3, 1955. A love affair was born that would endure a lifetime.

Growing up in Carmyle and educated at the local primary school, he quickly became active on the playing side of the game with both the Chapelhall and Albert youth clubs while studying for an apprenticeship at Coatbridge Technical College.

At 17 he signed for Bishopbriggs Amateurs, soon afterwards moving on to the junior ranks with Ashfield in August 1966. Shortly afterwards the senior ranks beckoned and, that November, he signed for Dundee United and then-manager Jerry Kerr.

However, any dream of a football career were put on the back-burner, with his father advising him to complete his five-year apprenticeship as an electrician with the South of Scotland Electricity Board at Dalmarnock power station and on Tayside with Loudon Brothers in Dundee.

By 1971 Walter had established himself in the first team at Tannadice, but with United’s game on January 2 postponed, he and his brother were at Ibrox for the traditional Old Firm derby, being caught up on Stairway 13 as the 85,000 crowd left the stadium following the 1-1 draw.

Sixty-six Rangers fans would die in the crush on that tragic day, but the two brothers were spared, clambering over the perimeter fencing and scrambling down the grass embankment on the other side to safety.

The nearest Dundee United came to a first major trophy success was the 1974 Scottish Cup final, which they lost 3-0 to Celtic. In 1975 Smith moved to Dumbarton, for whom he also played in the semi-final, losing to Hearts after a replay at Hampden the following year.

He returned to Tannadice after 18 months at Boghead, utilised by manager Jim McLean as a player/coach before a serious pelvic injury ended his playing career. This had the effect of allowing his coaching career to take off and he was later promoted to assistant manager.

Success would follow for Dundee United and the McLean/Smith partnership with consecutive trophy successes in the Scottish League Cup in 1979 and 1980, followed by a League Championship triumph in 1982-83.

Smith received recognition for his coaching skills from the SFA with the Scotland Youth and Under-21 sides. He was also head-hunted by several clubs who viewed him as a managerial candidate, but no offer was deemed suitable. One that he would have snapped up was from Ibrox in 1983, but Jim McLean opted to remain at Tannadice after initially deciding to move to Glasgow as Rangers manager with Walter as his assistant.

On the Scotland front, Smith was appointed assistant to interim manager Alex Ferguson following the death of Jock Stein at Cardiff in 1985.

Smith’s dream move finally came about in April 1986 when Graeme Souness was appointed Rangers’ player-manager. As the “Souness Revolution” gathered pace the honours rolled in – three League titles and four League Cups.

When Souness departed Ibrox for Liverpool in April 1991, he wanted Smith to accompany him, but Walter opted to stay at Ibrox and was rewarded when chairman David Murray offered him the manager’s position.

The early weeks were nerve-wracking as the title race went down to the wire, with Rangers requiring a win at home over their nearest challengers, Aberdeen, on the final day of the campaign. The squad had been decimated by illness and injury, yet two Mark Hateley goals retained the championship – and a first success for Smith as manager.

The good times rolled in as success followed success. Six further League titles were secured to reach the fabled target of nine-in-a-row, alongside three Scottish Cups and three League Cups.

Undoubtedly, the greatest achievement was in 1992-93 when the “treble” of league, Scottish Cup and League Cup was secured and the club came within one game of reaching the inaugural Uefa Champions League final, only to be denied by Olympique Marseille.

Smith opted to move on at the end of season 1997-98 after missing out on 10-in-a-row and he took control at Everton for the next four years.

Following a brief spell as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, he was appointed Scotland manager in 2004, restoring much pride in the national side before returning to Rangers in January 2007, once again bringing great success to the Light Blues with three successive League championships, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups.

His second reign also included the notable achievement of reaching the 2008 Uefa Cup final in Manchester, which Zenit St Petersburg won 2-0.

Smith retired following the 2010-11 League title success but was tempted back to Ibrox as a non-executive director in November 2012 following the club’s financial implosion earlier that year. He was appointed chairman in May 2013 but resigned three months later, disillusioned with the way the club was being run.

The club’s revival in recent years under Steven Gerrard and the new board of directors delighted him, as did this year’s 55th League title win.

A thoroughly decent and honourable man with a dry sense of humour, Smith’s passing is mourned by the football world. He is survived by his wife Ethel and sons Neil and Steven.