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26 Oct 2021

WALTER SMITH OBE: 1948 - 2021

All at the League Managers Association are so deeply saddened by the death of our very close friend, LMA member Walter Smith OBE, who has passed away at the age of 73.

Following his highly-esteemed career in management, Walter quickly became an integral part of the LMA team. He was dedicated to giving back to the game and, for the past five years, he has been working as an LMA Technical Consultant and Mentor to current Premier League managers and has also worked tirelessly in sharing his advice and guidance with those who are newer to coaching and management.

Manchester City Manager and LMA member Pep Guardiola said: “I am so very sad to hear the news of Walter Smith’s passing.

“I was of course very aware of Walter’s impressive management career before I came to the Premier League. Through his role as Technical Consultant for the LMA, I have had the opportunity over the past five years to get to know him and see what a humble, insightful and very genuine man he was.

“I always enjoyed spending time with Walter and we had been planning to have dinner together again.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to get to know him and I send my deepest condolences to Walter’s wife Ethel, his sons Neil and Steven, his grandchildren and all of his family who have lost a very special man.”

LMA Executive Committee member David Moyes added: “I looked up to Walter with so much respect. He was such a great Scottish manager but, to me, he was an even better man. He was honourable, he showed great dignity, and always demonstrated such class. He was a true friend and mentor, and a man I feel privileged to have known. He will always be remembered fondly.

“My thoughts are with all of Walter's family."

Paying tribute, LMA Chairman Howard Wilkinson said: “I am devastated to hear of the passing of my very good friend Walter Smith, a Scottish legend who amassed 21 trophies at Rangers.

“His ever respectful, polite and modest manner and demeanour gave no clue as to his remarkable career and success in both Scotland and England. Walter’s achievements, knowledge and character put him up there with the very best.

“In the very earliest days of the LMA Institute of Leadership and High Performance, when we invited Walter to share his career insights with the wider LMA membership, he gave freely of his time. In a Q&A session with his former Chief Executive Martin Bain, he shared openly and honestly his insights from across his extensive career in management, and this was very much appreciated by everyone who felt privileged to be in attendance.

“Walter will be very sorely missed. His wife Ethel and all of his family and friends are in my thoughts.”

LMA Chief Executive Richard Bevan added: “For very many years, Walter has been a close friend and supporter of the LMA and, in more recent times, he has given so generously of his time to support and mentor others working across the professional game.

“It is impossible to express how valuable that support has been for his fellow members, and I have no doubt that Walter had so much more to offer.

“We will all miss him terribly and I send my sincere personal condolences to Walter’s wife Ethel and his entire family.”

Following a playing career cut short by injury, Walter began his management journey at Dundee United, working under Jim McLean. At this time, he also worked his way through the ranks at the Scottish FA, taking various youth teams before becoming part of Alex Ferguson’s coaching staff, including during the 1986 FIFA World Cup campaign.

Walter joined Rangers in 1986, as assistant to player-manager Graeme Souness. As a team, Souness and Smith oversaw instant success with seven trophies in a five-year period, before Souness left to join Liverpool.

Walter’s first senior management position came in April 1991, succeeding Souness as Rangers manager, where he continued to deliver silverware, with Rangers the dominant force in Scottish football, winning seven successive league titles and a further six cup competitions during his first spell at the club.

During this period, Rangers also grew in stature on the continent. In 1992/93, after coming through the famous ‘Battle of Britain’ against Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds United to reach the UEFA Champions League group stages, Walter’s Rangers side came second to eventual winners Marseille, after being held by CSKA Moscow in the final group game.

In 1998, Walter became manager of Premier League club Everton, and worked tirelessly during his four seasons in charge to retain the Toffees’ Premier League status. He then spent a short period working with Sir Alex Ferguson again, as Manchester United Assistant Manager, where they won the FA Cup together.

Walter was appointed as Manager of the Scotland Men’s National Team in December 2004. Under Walter, Scotland’s FIFA World Ranking rose 70 places over a three-year period, demonstrating the impact he had on the team’s fortunes, including the famous victory over France at Hampden Park in 2006.

A return to Ibrox came in January 2007, as Walter answered Rangers’ call to close the gap on Celtic, who at the time were 17 points clear in the Scottish Premier League. In his first full season back in charge, a domestic cup double and a special run to the Europa League Final, Rangers’ first European final for 36 years demonstrated the impact Walter was having in his second spell.

In his final four years as a manager, between 2007 and 2011, Walter won two trophies in each season, taking his overall tally as manager of Rangers to 21 league and cup titles. He remains the second most decorated manager of Rangers, behind the legendary Bill Struth.

The thoughts of all at the LMA are with Walter’s wife Ethel, his sons Neil and Steven, his grandchildren, of whom he was so proud, and all of his family and friends at such a sad time.