Walter Smith, who managed Scotland, Rangers and Everton, has died at the age of 73. Image Credit: Twitter / Glasgow Rangers

Dubai: When Walter Smith became Everton manager in July 1998, it was the breath of fresh air the club so badly needed. The team had narrowly escaped relegation on the last day of the previous season under Howard Kendall and when he was replaced by the Scot, I was convinced the good times would roll at Goodison Park.

Smith had won 13 trophies in his first spell at his previous club Glasgow Rangers including 7 consecutive Scottish league titles and to be honest I was stunned the Blues had managed to entice a coach of such high caliber when clearly the chips were down.

The new boss went on a spending spree that summer where he brought in the classy midfielder John Collins, the abrasive Olivier Dacourt and a young Marco Matterazzi who nobody knew then but who would soon go on to become a World Cup winner with Italy. Smith could clearly spot talent; Dacourt became the team’s best player and though Matterazzi had temperament issues and often missed games through suspension when he played he was brilliant, as was Collins. But most of all the reassurance of having Smith, appointed an OBE in 1997, on the touchline and pulling the strings gave us Evertonians hopes of a brighter future.

Unfortunately, it was a tumultuous period for the club and instead of turning Everton into title challengers as was hoped, another brush with relegation is what materialized. It was striker Kevin Campbell who Smith brought in that ultimately saved the Merseysiders from going down by scoring 9 goals in 8 games, and the following season the team made a strong start but faded away.

Smith’s time in charge ended in March 2002 but he went on to become assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. He then became the Scotland manager before returning to Rangers where he won three more league titles and led them to the UEFA Cup Final in Manchester in 2008 and then retired from the game in 2011.

He is best known for his time at Ibrox and was a lifelong Rangers supporter with an affinity for the club you could reach out and touch. He could be very strong when he needed to be but always had a mischievous sense of humour too and the players, staff and fans at every club he was at loved him. He was a man of loyalty, integrity and great talent, his character and leadership was second to none and it is a sad day losing one of the loveliest guys in the game.