Monday, June 27, 2022

The Gaffer: Walter Smith 1948–2021

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Kenny Stewart
Chief Football writer for The 4th Official. Always honest and won't shy away from the truth.

I woke up this morning with a feeling of dread. I finished work last night and as usual, I put the electric shutter down for the shop facade. All I heard was a horrific noise and as I wasn’t facing the window I turned round to see the roller shutter coming down on one side but not the other.

As you do in times of need I immediately phoned my dad. He never answers his phone so called my mum and got her. She passed me onto my brother who said he had been mucking about with stuff in the shop the night before and he’d head straight in with my dad.

Three hours later and we eventually get the shutter to roll down. It isn’t fixed, there’s more work to do tonight but there we were, the three of us trying to unwind a ton of twisted metal in the cold and the rain.

I watched my dad doing everything he could to help us. He’s a handy guy to know and can put his hand to just about any DIY problem you could think of.

He’s seventy three, the same age as Walter Smith. Walter passed away this morning. Looking at my dad and seeing him getting on in years, all I can do is count my blessings for still having both my parents still with me at the ripe old age of fifty one.

We lost one of my brothers in March. My mum and dad have struggled badly with the loss. They’re finding life tough and I feel for both of them every single day. Losing a family member is the rarest pain. It’s bad enough losing a brother but I can’t imagine the suffering losing a child feels like.

My sense of dread this morning was due to the knowledge that another few hours of repair work will be required tonight. My dad, me and my youngest brother will be hard at it again trying to get this stupid shutter fixed. Selfishness strikes in strange ways and boy do I feel so mindless now.

My world turned upside down at ten o’clock this morning. Rangers announced the heartbreaking news that Walter Smith had sadly passed away. I instantly felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. I felt sick to my stomach. Genuinely.

I knew he was ill. I knew he was very ill but nothing prepared me for that this morning. To say I’ve been welling up all day is an understatement. I’ve been on Twitter constantly reading the tributes and they’ve been of great solace to me. At times like this, I can only say a big thank you to the Rangers family.

How can I be so upset at the passing of someone I never knew? Well, that’s down to the fact Walter turned up at Ibrox when I was a sixteen year old kid and in my lifetime he’s the single biggest icon our great club has seen. There’s no ifs or buts about that. He’s up there with John Greig, Sandy Jardine and from before my time the late, great Bill Struth.

That’s how revered he was. He was the gaffer. The greatest manager of Rangers in their modern era and the outpouring of grief today from each and every one of us shows the throne he sat on to us.

Twenty one trophies. Ten league titles. A UEFA cup final when we all went to Manchester. That’s what the great man is to us. He won Rangers nearly one in five of all the trophies our club have ever won.

Think about that. Twenty one trophies as the Rangers manager and more as Graeme Souness’ assistant.

There’ll be many eulogies to the great man in coming days and weeks and all of them will be from the heart. This is just me trying to describe my sadness at the loss of a man that can only be described as The Gaffer.

From across Scottish football, the expressions of sorrow shows the esteem he was held in across the board. A man that crossed the divide and was regarded with the highest respect. From managers, ex managers, players and fans alike, there’s been no one with a bad word to say about Walter Smith.

My memories are too many to mention, to be honest. Nine in a row, the great Champions League run of the 92/93 season, winning the League Cup with nine men at Hampden, beating Celtic when we went down to ten men after only five minutes in the Scottish Cup, the titles, the titles, the eleven cup final victories and of course the run to the UEFA Cup Final in Manchester.

Too many highlights and very few lows. The Rangers were in a safe pair of hands under Sir Walter. That was something we all knew. Tactically astute, brilliant actually. When he was the Rangers manager we all knew the team always had a chance in any game against any opposition.

I wanted to write this with respect to the great man but I’m honestly struggling with what to say as no matter what I write I simply won’t be able to do him justice.

I just want to pay my respects and thank the greatest Rangers Man of my lifetime and say thanks for all the memories he gave us.

I sat earlier and watched Ally McCoist speak so eloquently about his friend and mentor and frankly I have no idea how he held it together. I’ve been in bits at times today and I never knew him so I’ve no idea how Ally kept his composure like that.

The interview with Steven Gerrard was the hardest watch for me today though. You could see how much Walter meant to him, how much he appreciated having Walter in his corner and when he broke down I just cried like a baby.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – OCTOBER 26: Fans lay tributes at the Copland Road end of Ibrox Stadium for Rangers, Everton and Scotland manager Walter Smith who has died at the age of 73 on October 26, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Smith led the Rangers to 21 trophies in two stints as manager, between which he spent four years at Everton and two with Scotland’s men’s national team. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) The 4th Official uses images provided by the following image agency: Getty Images ( Imago Images (

I could write about Walters’ achievements and shower praise on him but for me, that’s for another day. My mind is too fuzzy to be thinking clearly.

Today is quite possibly the saddest, most heartbreaking day I’ve ever had as a Rangers supporter, only the day Davie Cooper passed comes close.

I’ll try to write a proper article that does the great man justice in the coming days but for now, I’m just a Rangers fan rambling about the loss of our Rangers Dad.

It feels like a death in the family. A devastating loss to us all and my thoughts, condolences and sympathy go to his wife Ethel and his sons and grandchildren.

Some days just aren’t good days and today is one of them. Ibrox tomorrow will be one helluva emotional place to be.

Go and win this one for Walter Smith. The Legend. I’d like to see Rangers name one of the stands of Ibrox after the man that gave me more happy memories than any other person outwith my own immediate family.

We’ve lost one of our own today and we all feel the pain and it’s one of the saddest days I’ve ever had in my entire life. The one genuine bit of solace I’ve taken today is that he was around to see 55.

Walter Smith 1948 – 2021.

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