Sometime ago we produced an article on the then Scotland manager Walter Smith for our fanzine ‘The 12th Man.’ We felt that it was about time to reproduce the article on the main website for all our readers to see.
Since we wrote this article Walter Smith has returned to former club Rangers to turn the clubs fortunes around and to lead it all the way to the UEFA Cup Final in Season 2007/2008 where they were beaten 2-0 by Russian side Zenith St. Petersburg managed by the man who succeeded Smith at Rangers previously, Dick Advocaat.
The Vacant Scotland Job was filled by another former Rangers manager, Alex McLeish who led the side to the end of their EURO 2008 Qualifiers and just missed out on qualification after posting two defeats in the last two games – against Georgia and a somewhat controversial defeat to Italy at Hampden Park which killed off our hopes to qualify for EURO 2008. McLeish left the Scotland job being lured back to Club Football by [then]English Premiership side Birmingham City upsetting many Tartan Army fans with his pursuit of riches rather than honour with the National side. Birmingham City were subsequently relegated that season and now ply their trade in the Championship.
Walter Smith grew up in Carmyle in the east end of Glasgow and was a boyhood fan of Rangers. He trained as an electrician before launching his football career in the 1960s with Junior League team Ashfield. Smith signed as a defender with Dundee United in 1966, joining as a part-timer while working as an electrician. In September 1975 he moved to Dumbarton, but returned to United in 1977. At the age of 29, a pelvic injury threatened his career and he was invited to join the Dundee United coaching staff by Jim McLean. His first team appearances were limited thereafter, but he remained a signed player and his final club match was in September 1980. In total, he made over 250 senior appearances, scoring three goals.
He developed his coaching skills, not only at Tannadice as Assistant Manager to Jim McLean, at a time when Dundee United were Scottish champions and European Cup semi-finalists, but also with the SFA. In 1978 he was appointed coach of the Scotland Under 18 team, and helped Scotland to win the European Youth Championship in 1982. He became coach of the Under 21 team, and was Alex Ferguson’s Assistant Manager during the World Cup in Mexico in 1986.
By then, Graeme Souness had invited him to become assistant manager at Rangers and he was instrumental in their success over the following years. When Souness left, Smith was appointed manager of the club in April 1991. Seven successive league titles followed under Smith’s tenure, including a domestic treble in 1993. He also won both the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup three times each. In 1993, Smith took Rangers to within one match of the UEFA Champions League final. He signaled his intention to leave Rangers in October 1997 after a period of total domination of Scottish league football. Rangers equalled Celtic’s record of 9 successive championships in 1997 but were denied a record-breaking 10th success in 1998 as Rangers lost the title to Celtic and lost the Scottish Cup final to Hearts. This marred a splendid managerial career but Smith left Ibrox in May with his reputation as one of the most successful Scottish managers still intact.
Already hugely successful in Scotland, Smith accepted the offer to become manager of Everton in England in 1998. The lure of trying to emulate the success in England of fellow Scots Alex Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish and George Graham encouraged Smith to consider putting his reputation on the line in the Premiership. Everton beat Sheffield Wednesday to his signature, agreeing what is believed to be a £1.5million deal for his three-year contract. Archie Knox, Smith’s number two at Ibrox, came with him as the Blues’ assistant manager.
Smith and his right-hand man Archie Knox, were unveiled as the new managerial team at Goodison on Thursday 1st July. He admitted that due to the nature of the Premiership compared to the Scottish League, he could not expect the same level of success he enjoyed at Rangers. “It obviously is far more competitive down in England, there are more teams who are liable to challenge for the championship,” he said.
Smith struggled early on in his first season after inheriting a struggling team, and perhaps more problematically, having to operate under a power struggle in the boardroom. Matters came to a head when fans favourite Duncan Ferguson was sold without Smith’s consent. After considering his position, Smith battled on and so did the team. He instilled a superb spirit after initially organising the defence.
Always respected by the supporters his stature grew with an excellent start to the 1999/2000 season as he made the most of the talents available to him, enabling Everton fans to at last see the team heading in the right direction. He left the club in March 2002.
In March 2004 , he returned to football when he had a short spell as assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United at the tail end of the 2003/2004 season.
Smith beat off competition from Gordon Strachan to become manager of the Scotland national team and was appointed on 2 December 2004, succeeding Berti Vogts . Smith had been the favourite to take over since Vogts left the post, although it was Strachan who was the first choice among the foot soldiers of the Tartan Army. Vogts resigned with Scotland having taken only two points from their opening three World Cup qualifiers, making it all but impossible for the team to qualify for the 2006 Finals in Germany.
He is the 15th person to be appointed manager of Scotland. He follows in the footsteps of such famous names as Matt Busby, Tommy Docherty, Willie Ormond, Ally McLeod, Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson and Craig Brown. His first match in charge of Scotland was against Italy in March 2005 and ended in defeat, but since then he has overseen a transformation in the team’s fortunes with a number of notable victories. Although it was too late to salvage the World Cup 2006 qualifying campaign, the team regained its credibility and successes included a Kirin Cup victory in Japan and a 1-0 win over World Cup finalists France at Hampden in October 2006.
In 2007, Walter replaced the flop that was Paul Le Guen at Ibrox, and turned around the club’s fortunes almost immediately. He has led the club to two league titles in a row and also reached the final of the 2008 UEFA Cup Final in Manchester.
It has been announced that Walter will step down as manager of Rangers in the summer of 2011, with assistant Ally McCoist linked with replacing him. It will certainly be a big pair of brogues to fill.
Born: Lanark, 1948
Clubs: Player– Ashfield Juniors; Dundee United and Dumbarton. Coach- Dundee United; Scotland Under 18 and Scotland Under 21. Assistant Manager– Scotland (WC 1986); Rangers and Manchester United (2004) Manager– Rangers, Everton and Rangers [Second Stint]