Two years ago on October 26th 2021, Rangers announced the passing of the man that, for many Bluenoses epitomised everything the club is and should be – Walter Smith OBE.
While John Greig was named the Greatest Ever Ranger after an extensive fan poll, there would be few who would disagree that Walter is the only man who could come close to taking that title away from Greig.
As someone who grew up during the 1990s and fell in love with the club with Smith at the helm, his death two years ago truly felt like the end of an era.
While most of the players who played a part in 9-in-a-row still remain with us – and hopefully do for a long time to come – it was Walter who set the standard for what is expected at Rangers.
Thirteen major trophies – seven league titles and six domestic cups – in seven years during his first spell as manager between 1991 and 1998 would have been more than enough to cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats of Scottish football but when Rangers came calling again in the wake of the ill-fated Paul le Guen era, it was Smith who rode to the rescue and returned the Gers to the summit of Scottish football.
Another three league titles and five domestic cups would follow as a whole new generation of fans and players alike got to experience what those of us who were around in the previous decade sampled; not to mention a first European final since 1972 as he led his beloved Rangers to Manchester and the UEFA Cup Final.
There are few people in the history of Scottish football who are recognisable simply by their first name and, speaking to many of those who worked under him or cheered his sides on from the slopes of Ibrox all you have to do is say the name Walter and they immediately know who you mean.
It might not seem like much but it’s a sign of the indelible mark he left on the game.
And it’s not just at Rangers. Such was the respect for him across the board, he was one of the pallbearers when former Old Firm rival (and latterly one of his coaches with the Scotland side) Tommy Burns passed away the morning after Rangers lost out in Manchester to Zenit St. Petersburg.
When it came time for Walter’s own funeral, the great and the good of British football came out to say goodbye one last time.
A look at Rangers’ tribute to him today on the anniversary of his death shows just what he meant to the club, its staff, and the legions of fans across the world who follow follow from wherever they may be.
Even when he was between management jobs, Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson brought Walter into the fold at Old Trafford for a short spell as his assistant, with Smith credited with helping United land Wayne Rooney and turning Cristiano Ronaldo into one of the best players the world has ever seen.
But it is at Ibrox where he will forever be remembered as a bonafide great – and with good reason.
Nobody will come close to matching his trophy haul at Ibrox or leave a shadow so big that even now Rangers managers can only dream of having a fraction of the impact he has.
With Rangers in action tonight in the Europa League over in Prague, there would be no more fitting tribute to Walter Smith than a stuffy, hard-fought win – just the way he did it best.