Smith looks to say farewell to Rangers with title-winning swansong
Saturday 14 May 2011
Walter Smith can finish his long stewardship of Rangers tomorrow with a glorious bow and a tenth title.
The 63-year-old is ending a managerial career that started at Ibrox 20 years ago, and his second spell at the club he supported as a boy.
He said goodbye to his beloved stadium on Tuesday night, with a 2-0 win over Dundee United. That left Rangers with an advantage over Celtic going into the final dash for the Scottish Premier League title; they are one point ahead of their rivals going into tomorrow lunch-time's league finale. Smith takes Rangers to Kilmarnock, while Neil Lennon's Celtic have a marginally easier game, at home to Motherwell.
Celtic have a superior goal difference, so Rangers will probably have to match the result from Parkhead to win. But if they did so, it would be a fitting flourish from one of the towering figures of the Scottish club game. A tenth league title would draw Smith level with the great Jock Stein, the mentor of Celtic's Lisbon Lions. Only two managers have won more: Willie Maley, who led Celtic through the first half of the last century, and Bill Struth, manager of Rangers through the inter-war years and into the late 1940s.
Smith's achievements are even more impressive for coming over two very different eras at Rangers. In his first spell, between 1991 and 1998, he had access to players of the quality of Basile Boli, Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne. His seven consecutive titles and three Scottish Cups, a fine achievement, were eased by his resources. In his second spell, though, he has exhibited different strengths. The money has drained out of Rangers, and with it the talent. Yet since replacing Paul Le Guen in 2007 he has won two titles and is close to a third, as well as two Scottish Cups and three League Cups, while also taking his team all the way to the 2008 Uefa Cup final.
Moreover, and most importantly, Smith represents a nobility that has been lost in Scottish football this year. The hate campaign directed towards Neil Lennon – two men appeared in court yesterday accused of sending hoax bombs to the Celtic manager – has debased one of the game's most enduring rivalries. "Not just a football manager," said Aberdeen's Craig Brown of Smith yesterday, "but a human being of outstanding calibre and quality and I just can't praise Walter Smith highly enough."
Latest in Sport
Royal Rumble 2015: Roman Reigns triumphs after The Rock returns to set-up Wrestlemania showdown with Brock Lesnar
Brighton 2 Arsenal 3 player ratings: Did Tomas Rosicky's performance and goal make him man of the match at Amex Stadium?
Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Transfer news and rumours LIVE: Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal, Chelsea target Raheem Sterling, Manchester United want Benzema
Royal Rumble 2015: Watch The Rock return to the WWE to rescue Roman Reigns
- 1 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally