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Jim Traynor on Walter Smith


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A statue in honour of Walter Smith? No chance. That would just be the height of madness.

And disrespect.

Rangers, and whoever ends up owning them, owe this manager much more than a sculpted chunk of granite.

Especially after two of his players were guilty of monumental stupidity yesterday to leave Rangers staring at Hampden humiliation.

But Smith was sparked into action and took control of an afternoon which was careering away from them.

It was Kenny Miller who scored the only goal of the Co-operative Insurance Cup final seven minutes from the end, but it was Smith who won it.

No, this wasn't Rangers' Cup Final. It wasn't St Mirren's Final either. This was Smith's Final.

No one worked harder than him to secure the club's 26th League Cups after 33 finals. The 62-year-old brushed aside the pressures, waved away tension and got the job done.

Smith proved again that he - and no one else - has been holding this team, this club together for the past three-and-ahalf seasons.

It is doubtful if any other manager could have stepped to the very edge of a technical area as his team teetered on the brink of calamity and galvanised them the way Smith did late afternoon at the National Stadium.

When every other Rangers fan - and probably also all of the players - thought it was over, that St Mirren would claim the trophy for the first time in their history, Smith strode to the front and took command of a dire and desperate situation.

His side were reduced to nine men - that's NINE - with Kevin Thomson sent off for a lunge at his namesake, Steven, in 53 minutes.

Saints fans, who had been fantastic from the very start when it quickly became obvious their side were better and more committed, sensed this would be their day and with 20 minutes remaining they believed completely.

Danny Wilson was beaten by Craig Dargo - a substitute for Billy Mehmet only a minute earlier - and the Ibrox defender pulled at his opponent's arm. Referee Craig Thomson fished out his red card again and Rangers' fans feared the worst.

A fair number of them howled again at the ref. The rest of them were dumbstruck. The players who were left looked at one another in disbelief. How could they survive now? The Final was lost, the Treble gone. But while everyone else were bereft of answers and Gus MacPherson was urging his players to step up and grab their moment of glory one man took it upon himself to do defy the Saints and the odds.

Smith, who had started the second half with his side playing 3-4-1-2 to combat the opposition's 3-5-2 which had dominated the first 45 minutes, was forced again to change.

Actually, it was his third switch because he had gone to 4-4-1 after Thomson's dismissal, but when Wilson departed he had to opt for 4-3-1. He also altered the personnel, taking off Kris Boyd in 78 minutes to get Steven Naismith on to pump new life back into Rangers. It worked superbly well and remarkably Rangers started to perform for the first time in this final.

Suddenly they found fresh impetus and with that came greater belief. From the side of Hampden's pitch Smith loomed larger than Michael Higdon had he been standing on John Potter's shoulders.

Suddenly, Rangers responded.

He howled. He gestured. He urged. He drove men running on empty both physically and mentally. He refused to accept this cup would be going anywhere other than Ibrox.

Under the most extreme circumstances, Smith proved he is the heart and soul of this Rangers side.

Although he has never been more animated than he was in the second half, it is his calm logic and understanding which has held his club together.

The new owner might yet be Andrew Ellis, whose people are still scanning Rangers' books, or it might be someone else, but no matter who takes over it would be folly to allow Smith to leave.

Without him Rangers would not be away out in front at the top of the SPL and they would not have won the Final. And Rangers would not be homing in on another Treble.

He has had his critics among Rangers' legions but when he was presented with the trophy at Hampden yesterday every fan rose to acclaim him.

Finally, they knew. Finally, they recognised a manager who is bigger than anyone else, a man who is larger than life.

The sheer strength of his will swept across Hampden and seeped into the heavy and drained limbs of his nine men. They found hidden reserves and started to break out of defence. He and they knew they wouldn't survive extra time, that an added half hour would have been too much. This final had to be won in 90.

So, seven minutes from time Naismith was released on the right. Miller and Nacho Novo sped up in the middle and on the left. St Mirren, despite having two extra men, were caught three on two.

Naismith looked up, clipped a delightful ball into the middle and Miller skipped into the air. His header was perfect. Poor Paul Gallacher leapt and tried to get a gloved hand on the ball but the direction was excellent. Miller wheeled away pursued by a posse of delirious players while Smith's clenched fist punched the air. MacPherson looked at the ground. It refused to open up for him. His players couldn't believe it. They had one hand on the damn thing. It was there for them. There for the taking, but they didn't quite have the reach.

Nor the belief despite that first half. MacPherson, Gallacher, Ross, Carey, Barron, Mair, Potter, Murray, Brady, Mehmet, Thomson, Higdon, and substitutes Dorman, Dargo and O'Donnell will have to live with this nightmare for the rest of their lives. This group will never come so close to glory again. Ever.

Yet somehow they will have to pick themselves up to see out the remainder of the SPL season and shake offthe spectre of relegation, but survival will never make up for what happened to them at Hampden.

And perhaps no other Hampden final will ever \ be sweeter for Smith.

A statue? Don't be daft.

His profile carved out on the Campsie Hills overlooking Murray Park wouldn't even cover it.

An end to Rangers' financial concerns and a promise of money for the next group of players would just about do it though.

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I got the feeling reading that this is a veiled attack on those from the mhanky side of Glasgow. What with the BJK statue and the spineless, coward that is Mopery at the helm, Walter Smith showed yesterday how it should be done; with heart and hand and sword and shield.....

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I wonder if Smith is rich enough to buy the club?

Smith has been nearing legendary status, if he wasn't there yet he certainly is now after yesterday! :praise:

That would be pretty amazing!

The word legend is used to often, usually unjustified in any way, however, Smith is a man worthy of that, and then some

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Sir Walter has certainly rammed my 2 bit football opinions down my throat and i'm delighted we have such a colossus in charge. Given everything he's had to cope with recently this was perhaps a crowning moment for him. I can't remember seeing him enjoy a cup-lifting quite so much and i'll admit i was getting quite emotional watching All, Kenny and him celebrate.

We are very lucky to have a terrific management team with 3 massive Rangers fans in the key positions. I'd like to see the fans remind Walter of how highly we regard him between now and the end of the season.

Walter Smith's Blue and White Army. :praise:

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