Walter Smith was hailed ‘a giant’ by football legends at a touching remembrance ceremony at Glasgow Cathedral.
The iconic Ibrox boss passed away aged 73 on October 26 following a battle with cancer and was laid to rest in a private family ceremony on November 3.
But a more public remembrance service was held to celebrate Smith’s life and was joined by some of the biggest names in British and world football.
Those included his close friend and former assistant Ally McCoist, Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson as well as a host of his former players – including Duncan Ferguson, Andy Goram, Marvin Andrews, Richard Gough, Charlie Miller, Mark Hateley, Nigel Spackman, Derek McInnes, David Weir, Lee McCulloch, Kenny Miller, Sasa Papac and Kris Boyd.
Gers captain James Tavernier gave a reading from the book of Ecclesiastes at the packed ceremony at Glasgow Cathedral today.
While much of the ceremony was sombre, there was much humour and funny stories from his time.
Son Neil Smith thanked fans, the NHS and Rangers for their support throughout the family’s ordeal – and told of his dad’s abiding passion for the Light Blues.
He said: “The fact we are saying a final farewell to my dad in the beautiful and historic Glasgow Cathedral, the city’s oldest building, says so much about the incredible life he enjoyed and what he achieved.
“…he went to Ibrox with his dad and grandad to watch Rangers play in the 50’s and 60’s and he could never have dreamed back then that he would have gone on to manage that club twice, winning 21 trophies, and also take charge of the Scotland national team.
“But that’s what happened – he lived the dream.
“Away from football he was a devoted husband of more than 50 years, an amazing dad and father-in-law and laterly he was so proud to be a grandad to my daughter Jessica, twins Adam and Jack and my brother’s four children…
“In many ways my dad did have two sides to him, he was a family man and great at that but he also had a tough streak- and so many former players and newspaper reporters will talk about the famous Walter stare if they stepped out of line.
“In the last few weeks of his life I had many chats with him about his life and football career.
“One thing that stuck with me was (him saying) ‘I was lucky to work with so many great people’.
“In many ways that was Dad, while he could be demanding and a tough character in the dressing room when required he was, above all else, a people person.”
He told one story where legendary striker Paul Gascoigne, or Gazza, was alone on Christmas day and he invited him for dinner at the house.
He said: “As this was the time before seven grandkids, Christmas was a far less chaotic time than it is now and having Gazza present ensured it was unforgettable.
“I remember every now and again looking at Stephen with both of us baffled as to how one of the world’s most famous footballers ended up at our table with a Christmas party hat and pulling crackers with my grandpa.
“There was so much more to my dad than being a football coach and manager. He was a wonderful person, he was humble and modest and also funny, quick witted and great company.
“Without mentioning one of the famous Tina Turner songs- to us Walter Ferguson Smith was undoubtedly the best.”
Andy Cameron told numerous rib-tickling stories about his time with Walter in the dressing room – including Gers players filling his coat with biscuits and sausage rolls.
“We know he won 21 trophies, we know what he did in football and that’s in history – for us who were pals of his he was just a great guy, an absolutely outstanding human being.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who had a close relationship with Walter, said: “I was looking for a word that could encapsulate this man and it’s definitely ‘giant’.
“If any of the players here today are thinking of becoming a manager you have to think carefully.
“Unless you have the qualities that Walter Smith had then forget about it – because it’s a really difficult industry and Walter performed for a long, long time.
“Well done Walter.”
Another close colleague, Ally McCoist, said: “On his football career we will be very brief because frankly it was bang average.
“Clearly it is as a coach and a manager and that’s where we know him better and where he had great and phenomenal success.
“He was a wonderful leader of men but his real strength, and where he was happiest was in the peleton.
“He loved his friends and his mates and his golf buddies and that’s where he was his happiest.
“But where he was at his best is when he left to come out and lead men.
“He could gauge people, he could judge people.
“He loved us all and was a father figure to us all.
“Walter I love you to bits, thank you very much for the memories.”
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