The name Walter Smith resonates with football fans around the world, and this tells you more than anything about his place in the football we all love.
Scottish football has a giant in Walter Smith lost, an icon, a figurehead and in many ways a leader.
He has never hidden his passion for the Rangers, his club, but at the same time he has never forgotten the principle of respect for his opponents, which is an incredible quality The first time I saw Walter Smith live in action was in the dugout in Fir Park in 1994 when I joined Motherwell as a 17 year old apprentice. Rangers were in town and I was fascinated by this gray-haired colossus of a man who yelled instructions to his players, challenged every referee decision and pushed his team forward with unbridled passion.
I obviously knew who Walter Smith was before I went to Scotland came, but I couldn’t take my eyes off him. His players reacted to his words of praise and criticism, as he demanded every ounce of commitment from them. I have no doubt that his players feared him but loved him at the same time; They knew who the boss was, but he only wanted the best for them.
A few years later, when I met him in person at an SPL Awards dinner at the end of the season, I could only think of his properties at the Think back to the sideline that day at Fir Park. I have to admit that I was really nervous having a preconceived notion of what he was like, a fearsome man.
To be honest, my opinion couldn’t have been further from the real gentleman he was was. He gave me a warm handshake, congratulated me on the season that just ended, and had an aura around him that people clung to his every word, me included.
Get the headlines every morning and evening with our free daily newsletter in your inbox today.
Enter your email address
This field is required
It taught me a valuable lesson that it is one thing to be a fierce competitor and want to win, but having humility and dignity goes well with that.
I’ve also been to a few events, where Walter was the main speaker and when he spoke the people listened. You could have heard a pin drop as he talked about leadership, teamwork and the best of people in a strong team environment. He knew how to lead a team and hold a space, that’s for sure.
In his company, you knew that you were facing a great man, not out of arrogance or overconfidence, but because of his willingness to give everyone time, although in all honesty he probably could have done without it.
He was a man who was respected for his accomplishments, and when he walked into a room he turned for his presence. People wanted to talk to him; he had that affect and was very happy to devote his time to others.
As a manager in sport or in business, you want your players or your team to be the epitome of who you are. You want them to represent what you stand for and carry the principles you associate with.
The teams Walter put on the pitch reflected everything he was, hard working, adamant, a winner and full of commitment.
You never got an easy game against a team trained by Walter. He let them fight and argue for everything to the bitter end. They would strive relentlessly to win because of what he instilled in them.
His special bond with the players who played under him lives on and will for many years to come. He’s inspired so many, probably without even knowing it, and it takes a special kind of person to make that impact.
Football is an extremely competitive environment and Glasgow is a tough city to deal with, but both sides of the world Kluft agree in their admiration for a wonderful person.
He is sorely missed, but leaves a legacy in Rangers Football Club and Scottish football that is second to none and has an impact many will never forget.
Belfast Telegraph is a member of IPSO and subscribes to its Code of Conduct for Publishers
A Mediahuis website