There is some sad news to start the day today as former Everton manager Walter Smith has passed away after a long illness at the age of 73.
Smith was in charge at Goodison Park between July 1998 and March 2002 during a tumultuous time for the club under chairman Peter Johnson. Universally popular among players and fans due to his friendly demeanor, the Scotsman oversaw a great escape in the 1998-99 season when the January loan signing of Kevin Campbell and subsequent nine goals in eight games helping keep the Toffees in the Premier League.
It was at Glasgow Rangers however where Smith made his name and his fame during two spells at Ibrox. He won seven consecutive Scottish league titles there between 1990-91 and the time he left to come to the Toffees, taking over from Howard Kendall after his third spell in charge had seen the Blues just escape relegation on the last day of the season due to goal difference.
Smith’s time at the club remains somewhat controversial, with the manager promised money for players that the club did not have in its coffers, and the last straw being star striker Duncan Ferguson being sold off behind the manager’s back. The outrage from that saw the end of Johnson’s time as chairman of the club and saw Bill Kenwright take over.
Three consecutive seasons of futility in the lower half of the Premier League followed, which then saw Smith leave the club after 168 games and David Moyes come in from Preston North End to usher the club towards a decade of mostly top half finishes.
After leaving Everton, Smith went on to become an assistant with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United before taking up the Scotland manager’s job and then returning to Ranger before announcing his retirement.
Smith was appointed an OBE in 1997.
Kenwright spoke to the club website upon the announcement of today’s news -
“He was one of the very best people I was lucky enough to meet in my lifetime in football. A man of loyalty, integrity and great talent. Strong when he needed to be but with a mischievous sense of humour that could ease even the most tense situations.
“Walter and I shared a lot together during the takeover years but among many, many examples of real friendship, one will always stick out. We had just... tearfully... agreed his farewell to Goodison, when he slapped his hands together and said ‘Okay Bill, who are we going to get to manage this great club of ours?’
“Even in a moment of real sadness, he refused to put himself first...one of the true attributes of a great leader. And that’s exactly what Walter Smith was. A great leader. And a great man.
“I send my personal love to Walter’s wife Ethel and the family and know that I will be joined by everyone at Everton Football Club in saluting a husband, a dad, a grandfather, and a legendary football manager,”
The thoughts of the Everton family are with his wife, family and extended circle of friends.