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The Second coming of Walter Smith


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By Colin Moffat

Smith aims to win Rangers' second European trophy

Walter Smith stands on the verge of joining the small band of managers to have won a European trophy with a Scottish club.

If Rangers can overcome Zenit St Petersburg in Wednesday's Uefa Cup final, Smith would step into the illustrious company of Jock Stein, Willie Waddell and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Waddell's near 50-year contribution to Rangers as a player, manager and executive rightly earned him legendary status at Ibrox, along with fellow ex-player and manager Scot Symon and Bill Struth, who spent an incredible 34 years in charge of the team.

Smith, in his second spell at the club, can lay claim to similar greatness.

In his first stint, he guided the club to seven of their nine titles in-a-row, with the last of his seven full seasons at the helm being the only one without a trophy.

Now that he's back, via Everton and Scotland with a brief spell helping out at Manchester United, Rangers are in the running for a domestic Treble as well as European glory.

The reappointment of Smith in January 2007 was made in an attempt not just to improve results but to recreate the solid foundations he had established first time round.

In order to return, Smith resigned as Scotland boss two years into the post, having dragged the nation up more than 70 places in the Fifa rankings.

After the dark days of Berti Vogts, Smith restored a sense of pride with a no-nonsense approach that made the most of the limited resources at his disposal.

A solid defence was at the heart of that success and he has followed a similar blueprint at Ibrox.

Assistant to Jim McLean at Dundee United before Graeme Souness brought him to Ibrox in the same role in 1986, Smith had two formidable mentors.

Having struggled to make an impact in his three-and-a-half years at Everton, Smith brought a more relaxed attitude to the Scotland job, earning the moniker 'Uncle Watty' from an appreciative Tartan Army.

However, Smith still cuts an intimidating figure and players would be advised to keep on his good side.

Smith has been helped this season by assistant Ally McCoist

Clinching nine titles in-a-row to equal Celtic's record must rank as Smith's greatest achievement.

On the way, there was a Treble in 1992-93, during which Rangers went seven months unbeaten.

That run incorporated 44 matches, including 10 games in the inaugural Champions League.

Further forays on the continent were the one disappointment during Smith's first reign.

But Rangers have found their touch on the continent again, seeing off Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and Fiorentina to reach the final in Manchester.

Lyon and Stuttgart were also beaten, while Barcelona were held at Ibrox during the Champions League group stage.

A Uefa Cup win would be Smith's highest-profile success, since the game in Scotland is often derided as a two-horse race.

And a more prudent approach to finances at Ibrox means Smith can no longer go shopping for stars like Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne.

Victory in Manchester and a clean-sweep at home would be incredible, given Smith started the season with a glut of new faces and will have to contend with an end-of-season fixture pile-up.

Even if he falls short of a wonderful Quadruple, Smith has delivered a season that will live long in the memories of Rangers supporters


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