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Walter Smith-My Eyes and Ears


I was lucky enough to go to Old Trafford yesterday for Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game. It was my brother’s 50th birthday and way back had decided to buy two tickets for us to go.   The only tickets I could get were for the game against Swansea, Alex Ferguson’s last game, a real stroke of fortune.

As I was sitting in Old Trafford flicking through the programme the United Review I read Alex Ferguson’s programme notes. One thing struck me; he publicly thanked only three people in these notes, none of them footballers that played for him.

First it was his wife Cathy ‘the key figure throughout my career providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement’. Second was Chief Executive, David Gill ‘a talented and trustworthy Chief Executive’. Thirdly Sir Bobby Charlton ‘gave me the confidence and time to build a football club rather than just a football team’.

Let’s look at this from a Rangers perspective.

The first one was a given. The second, the chief executive, I agreed with completely. It is essential to have a talented and trustworthy chief executive at Rangers

It was the third person he thanked that struck me the most. If Sir Bobby Charlton was at Ibrox half the support would be quite happy for him to play no part in the Club’s future. ‘What does he do?’, ‘he knows nothing about business’ or ‘he’s a football dinosaur’ would be some of the criticism levelled at him.

Sir Bobby Charlton’s football CV reads three league titles, one FA Cup, one European Cup and one World Cup and a litany of other awards and tributes from fans, FIFA and UEFA alike. He was involved in the Munich Air disaster. His knowledge of Manchester United, its traditions and what it means to the fans is second to none.

But Sir Bobby’s place in the Boardroom is assured; he is Mr Manchester United just as Sir Alex Ferguson is also Mr Manchester United. His place in the Boardroom at Old Trafford is also assured.

Let’s think about Rangers for a moment: who do we have that is alive and kicking and is Mr Rangers just as Sir Bobby is Mr Manchester United?

With ten league titles, five Scottish Cups and six League Cups, the answer is not Charles Green, Imran Ahmed or even Malcolm Murray it is Walter Smith OBE. Walter Smith is Mr Rangers FC.

Financially independent, Walter doesn’t need the money to be a Non-Executive at Ibrox and he could happily live his life spending time with his charming wife Ethel away from the mess that is the Ibrox boardroom.

Why doesn’t he? In simplistic terms I would suggest Walter Smith loves Rangers as much as you and I do. He knows every nook and cranny of Ibrox and Auchenhowie, he knows the reason why traditionally we wear black and red socks and he has partaken in more Loving Cup ceremonies in the Blue Room than most.

He is a fan first and foremost and our eyes and ears in the Boardroom, if you like an unelected fans representative (WARNING I still think you all should be joining the Rangers Supporters Trust so we can have an elected fans’ representative on the Board).

Walter is no fool, he will not be happy with the football played this season but he will understand the difficulties faced by McCoist and appreciate that the manager has achieved his first target which was to win Division Three. He will also realise that if Rangers are languishing mid table in Division Two that difficult decisions may have to be made.

Walter Smith will do everything he can to ensure what’s right for Rangers Football Club, that doesn’t mean he will not make mistakes along the way. But it does mean, with the full backing of the support, he can help choose the right chief executive to shape the Club and give the financial stability we all crave plus the ability to compete at the highest level on the football pitch. He can help ward of the tyre-kickers and fly-by-nights with only a love of Pounds Sterling FC in their hearts.

We need men of integrity, steeped in the history of our great Club scattered from the training pitch to the Boardroom. Walter Smith is Mr Rangers and like Sir Bobby Charlton can help us recapture our former glory. If Walter feels he is in a position that he can no longer sit alongside his fellow Board members then I’m afraid we should all be concerned.

At Rangers we are too often ready to rubbish the value our former players and managers, it’s almost as if once they leave Ibrox for the final time they are of no use to us at all. But let’s be honest, it takes a special kind of person to handle playing for Rangers or managing the Club. Our history is littered with players, and to a lesser extent managers, that were not successful but we should cherish the ones that were and encourage them to get involved at every level to ensure our Club’s success.

Walter is in the Boardroom, should there be one employed in the ticket office, one employed in the megastore or employed to be on the front door at Ibrox or employed on the training pitches at Auchenhowie?

Should these people be passing on their knowledge of the greats of the past, the Rangers traditions and what it means to be a Ranger? Should these people be looking out for our great Club?

Yes is the simple answer. With Walter in the Boardroom I get a sense of calm because someone is watching over the thing I love-I trust you do too.

Graham McLaren can be followed on Twitter @gazborangers