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Two In A Row proves Walter is one of the best managers ever.


Stu1993
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WALTER Smith replaced Graeme Souness as Rangers boss 19 years ago and inherited a transfer kitty that allowed him to spend money like a man with no arms.

Now, just days after clinching his second SPL title in a row at the cash-crippled club, Souness has hailed his successor for achieving success with one hand tied behind his back.

Souness, who kicked off a Scottish football revolution back in 1986 with Smith as his assistant, has heaped praise on the man who has defied odds this season.

The club is on its knees financially and yet Smith somehow lifted his players and propelled them to another championship.

But despite the restraints, Souness isn't surprised.

He rates his old pal alongside legends such as Jock Stein and Sir Alex Ferguson. But more importantly to Souness, he regards himself "lucky" to be able to call Smith a true friend.

In an exclusive interview with Record Sport, the former midfield great said: "This isn't just about Walter's achievement this season. It's about his entire time since he returned to the club in 2007.

"He's gone there under very different circumstances to his original time at Ibrox. Walter will be the first to say, when he became manager after I'd left, that it was a very special time.

"He had a great group of players and the club was in fantastic financial nick.

They could go out and compete with the best in terms of transfer fees and wages.

"But he's gone back to a situation at Rangers that has changed dramatically. It wasn't anyone's fault - it's just the way the game has evolved and money is now being concentrated on other leagues such as the Premiership in England.

"The job he's done is absolutely fantastic. I'm delighted for him but I'm not in the least bit surprised because he's a class act.

"There's no one word I can use for Walter. But forget football, I'm just proud to call him a friend. Take football out of the equation. If you've got a mate like Walter, you're lucky in life. That translates into the relationship he has with his players and you see that shining through in his team's performances.

"For the past two years, he's been working at Rangers with one hand tied behind his back. Yet he's won two titles and got them to a European final.

"When he went back to Rangers, he put his reputation on the line. Here was the guy who'd won nine in a row going back and putting everything at stake under totally different circumstances.

"He's up there with Stein and Fergie but has been for a number of years."

Souness admits he wasn't fully aware of Smith's qualities as a coach when he became his No.2. He had worked under him briefly during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico before former Rangers chairman David Holmes brought the pair together in a move that transformed our game.

Souness had achieved everything as a player. But he insists if it wasn't for Smith's guidance he'd never have cut it as a boss at Ibrox.

He said: "We were thrown together by David back in 1986 - it was his idea. I had worked with Walter when I was a player and he was Jock's then Alex Ferguson's assistant at the World Cup.

"I didn't know a great deal about him. But very quickly at Rangers, I lent heavily on Walter.

"He had been around Jim McLean and saw how he operated. Although I had played at the highest level with Liverpool and I'd won trophies I was reliant on Walter when coming back to Scotland.

"None of what I'd seen or done as a player prepared me for management at Rangers and I was totally reliant on him, not just at first but throughout the five years I spent at Ibrox."

The trademark of Smith's Rangers teams over the years has been their unbreakable team spirit. Souness believes what allows his old pal to foster that kind of togetherness is his honesty with players.

He added: "Walter has three great strengths which enable him to foster such team spirit. He has a vast knowledge of football, real passion for the game and he's such an honest genuine person.

"Players are a cynical bunch. They constantly look at the manager for flaws.

"But Walter tells you how it is, face to face. That's why he's had longevity in the game and he's been successful for so long.

"If you're a fly-by-night in management, you don't last five minutes. But Walter is as honest as the day's long."

When Smith left Rangers in 1998 he joined Everton and faced a similar perilous financial predicament as the one he's experiencing at Ibrox now.

Souness said: "If he'd gone to English football at another club, he would have had success there as well. He'd have enjoyed his experience down there but his great love is, and always has been, Glasgow Rangers."

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