Smith open to offers for swift return to front line

'I wouldn't say I'm retired' admits former Rangers manager suffering from withdrawal from football

The former Rangers manager Walter Smith could be tempted by a return to management if offered the right opportunity.

The 63-year-old left the Scottish champions at the end of last season, bringing to an end a second successful spell at the Ibrox helm. Although not keen to pursue offers which have come his way so far, Smith does not consider himself to be retired just yet and could make a return to the game.

"I'll wait and see if an offer comes along that I would be interested in," he said yesterday. I haven't actively pursued that at the moment. I've had a couple [of offers] back in August and September but not ones I would have wanted to take."

The former Scotland and Everton manager added: "I suppose when you get to my age, you are thinking of retiring anyway. But, in a football sense, you find a lot of people who come to my age and who are not involved, they can get the offer for an opportunity to get back into the game at different spells. If I get one, I'll consider it. I wouldn't say I was in retirement at the present moment.

"You miss the footballing parts, there is no doubt that happens – the involvement in matches and the competitive aspect of seeing your team play against another. I don't miss an awful lot of the rest of the stuff but I miss that aspect."

Smith revealed he has limited his visits to Ibrox since his departure but has been impressed by his successor, Ally McCoist. "I've only been to a couple of games this season. It's been strange to watch them mainly on television," he said. "With the changes – a new owner, a new manager and some new players to integrate into the team – I feel Alistair has started very well."

Smith believes next week's Old Firm derby at Celtic Park could be pivotal in the title race as McCoist aims to steer Rangers to the SPL crown in his first season in charge. "From a Rangers point of view, the next few matches are obviously vitally important," Smith said. "For any club, if you find yourself in the early part of the year going into the second half of the season at the top of the league, that's a big thing psychologically. That's what makes the forthcoming games big games for both clubs."

The Celtic legend Billy McNeill has hailed the club's manager, Neil Lennon, a miracle worker as he looked forward to the Old Firm derby next Wednesday.

Lennon's rejuvenated side have reduced the gap behind Rangers at the top of the SPL from 15 points to four with seven straight wins while the Ibrox men have struggled. Celtic host Kilmarnock and Rangers go to St Mirren on Saturday, but there is growing anticipation ahead of the visit of the champions to the east end of Glasgow.

"I was interested in how the mix of players would get together as a team and Neil has performed a wee bit of a miracle there, he really has," McNeill said. "When he makes a change he seems to get a turn from the players and I really think he has performed brilliantly. Things look good for them.

"Celtic are sitting in a powerful position and this part of the season is one that proves if they are capable of winning the league. This is often when teams lose their way but Celtic look positive, as if they are playing well enough to get to the top of the league. When you come to the turn of the year, you have the Old Firm game. A result in that game would work wonders for Celtic."

Spain have remained top of the the world governing body Fifa's rankings and been acclaimed team of the year for the fourth time running, while Wales, inspired by the work of their late manager Gary Speed, were declared the year's "best mover".

The world and European champions finished 2011 in a familiar position, ahead of the Netherlands and Germany in an unchanged top 10. Uruguay were fourth, England fifth and Brazil sixth with Portugal, Croatia, Italy and Argentina completing the leading group.

Wales, after an outstanding second half of the year during which they beat Montenegro, Switzerland and Bulgaria in Euro 2012 qualifiers, climbed to 48th position. Speed, the architect of their renaissance, was found hanged at his home last month, aged 42, after barely a year in the job.

Speed took over after Wales' final fixture in 2010 and under his management the team rose from 116th to the top 50, gaining more ranking points, 330, in 2011 than any other nation.

Bosnia-Herzegovina (20), Panama (49) and Estonia (57) earned their highest placings since the rankings began. The most dramatic leap came from American Samoa, who jumped 18 places to 186 thanks to winning a World Cup qualifier for the first time.

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