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Chick Young's view

Rangers manager Walter Smith
Walter Smith has won silverware despite the club's off-field problems

Chick Young
By Chick Young
BBC Scotland football correspondent

Walter Smith and I have had our moments.

There was a YouTube hit which was filmed some 17 years ago when the internet was something on a fishing boat.

You'll know the one, where his then assistant manager Archie Knox suggested I stick my microphone in a place which would make sound checks awkward.

And then there was the baguette affair last season when a seagull decided to dive-bomb us during a live interview in the tunnel at Ibrox. Egg mayonnaise everywhere; egg, more euphemistically speaking, on the interviewer's face.

Two old men left giggling like naughty schoolboys, and plenty more before, in between and since.

He's a wise old football owl is Walter; time served in coaching business from those who know best.

As a manger Walter Smith triggers the most astonishing respect; as a man he stimulates the most incredible loyalty

When you learn your trade from Jim McLean, Andy Roxburgh and Alex Ferguson and then ride shotgun with Graeme Souness, you know you have been to the finest schools of finishing.

When PLG started to stand for Please Leave Govan rather than Paul Le Guen, then chairman David Murray insisted there was only one choice to lead the cavalry to the rescue: Smith, the man who had previously been ushered out the door.

He is in with the bricks of history now: The Smithsonian Institute. Arguably, the club's greatest manager, arguably...

There was Bill Struth, of course, and Scot Symon, Willie Waddell and Jock Wallace.

But only Wallace, like Smith on his second tour of duty, worked in such circumstances of financial peril with a For Sale sign rattling over the front door.

As a manger he triggers the most astonishing respect; as a man he stimulates the most incredible loyalty.

The Good Lord only knows what might have become of Rangers without his calming influence, an experienced skipper on the bridge with a sober mind and a steady hand on the wheel, while all around him thought it might be time to be eyeing up a lifeboat.

Ranges goalkeeper Allan McGregor
Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor was given a second chance

And so it came to pass that a Rangers team under his stewardship has secured the Scottish championship again.

Furthermore, he did it without spending - in the legendary words of Fergus McCann - "one thin dime". Three transfer windows and all they were good for was farewell parties.

Celtic's panic-buying in January was no match for Rangers' enforced policy of stability. And yet the Ibrox dressing room is no poor house.

No money has changed hands for some time, but it still took a mighty treasure chest to assemble the current squad, and many of the transfer fees continue to drip monthly payments towards the selling clubs.

But it is Walter Smith who nursed them over the line. He saw in David Weir a captain of the club where others saw only an old man in his football dotage.

He saw salvation for Allan McGregor when others would have shown him the door; and other things, like new life for Lee McCulloch.

And he even attended to his Achilles heel, his traditional reluctance to push the gamble button with the kids.

Danny Wilson is the case for the defence - in more ways than one.

Now what? Is he a warrior itching for another fight, or is it time to trim that golf handicap that tumbled when he was the manager of Scotland?

Unless Lyon are hell-bent on winning the Champions League there will be automatic qualification to the Group Stages next season and that may be the last time for years to come that we use that phrase for a Scottish club.


And yet Rangers look woefully ill-equipped for the class acts they will engage at that level.

So is Walter up for it? Don't ask me. I've asked him and his mood on the matter seems to swing with the tide.

He wants Ally McCoist shoe-horned into the job, just as Graeme Souness did with him, but he cannot hang around forever like old Mr Grace in Are You Being Served refusing to hand over the keys to the shop.

It will be down to the new owner, if such a character ever emerges from the shadows, but I still believe there is only one genuine candidate and that is the exiled Dave King. And trust me, he'll want Walter to stay put.

Is there really an alternative?

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see also
Spirit key to Rangers' triumph
25 Apr 10 |  Rangers
Rangers' championship photo gallery
25 Apr 10 |  Scottish Premier
Gers laud Smith for trophy haul
26 Apr 10 |  Rangers
Hibernian 0-1 Rangers
25 Apr 10 |  Scottish Premier
Rangers duo win Clydesdale awards
19 Apr 10 |  Scottish Premier

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