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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Walter Smith – Twenty Trophies and Counting

Written by on March 29, 2011 | 5 Comments »
Posted in General, Rangers

When Walter Smith lifted the Scottish League Cup after a 2-1 extra time win over Celtic it was the 20th trophy he had won as a Rangers manager.

Before Smith again calls it a day as Rangers manager, (he retired as Rangers boss in 1998), he has a chance of making it a sweet 21 as Celtic’s lead at the top of the SPL has been reduced to just two points and Rangers have a game in hand.

The bitter rivals have to play each other once more league once the split between top and bottom takes place a few weeks from now.

There may be a tendency to belittle such a massive trophy haul on the basis of Celtic and Rangers dominance of Scottish football. However, the relative merits of Scottish football versus other leagues that are dominated by a couple of teams is an argument for another day.

In my book twenty trophies is a magnificent achievement in any professional sport and Walter Smith, upon his retirement, such be feted as another in a long line of great Scottish born managers.

Over the five decades there has been a production line of coaches and managers that has far out-weighted the size of the country. Where Smith will finally rank is another question. He is up against some heavy hitters.

The first four names on my list (in no particular order) are beyond any discussion.

There is the holy-trinity of Sir Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Jock Stein. Busby and Stein both won the European Cup with Manchester United and Celtic respectively.

Shankly took a Liverpool side that was closer to the third division than the first division and within a few short years  turned them into a side that was first admired and feared in England and then in Europe.

Sir Alex Ferguson joins that trio as a representative of the second wave. After that it becomes very difficult to compare and contrast.

I believe solid cases can be made for Tommy Docherty and Willie Waddell. Docherty’s flair for controversy (often viewed as self destructive tendencies) has often masked his successes.

The Chelsea team he took to promotion in the early 60s was a dashing and exciting side and he carved out a place in English football for a side had a one point looked set to fade into insignificance.

The work he did in revitalizing Scotland set the stage for Willie Ormond to take the country to the World Cup Finals for the first time in 16 seasons.

When he moved on it was to Manchester United – a side at that time was a pale shadow of the 60s.

Like Ferguson who would come after him about a decade later, Docherty understood that for United fans it was not just good enough to win but to win a certain way.

The United that returned to the top flight under “the Doc” was an incredibly fast, exciting team that attacked from all directions with a cut and thrust that was a joy to watch.

Willie Waddell had been an outstanding player for Rangers and after his retirement he flitted in and out of football writing and management. He was manager of Kilmarnock when they won the Scottish League in 1965 in the most dramatic way possible.

Killie needed to beat their nearest rivals Hearts 2-0 on the last day season to win the league on goal average (not difference) and they did it. After four years as a journalist he took over at Rangers and three years later they won the European Cup Winners Cup and gradually but surely started to loosen the grip Jock Stein’s Celtic sides had on trophies.

Jim McLean may not be a name that is recognizable to fans not conversant with the Scottish game. But when McLean took over Dundee United in 1971 success was regarded as nothing greater than a mid-table finish and attracting crowds beyond 5 or 6,000 per game.

Under his stewardship they won the Scottish League, a couple of League Cups, made it to the final of the UEFA Cup and the semi final of the European Cup.

There were also many other finals along the way.

Some of the biggest clubs in Europe learned the danger of underestimating United. To give context to McLean’s body of work he is one of only a handful of managers who stood toe to toe with Alex Ferguson and did not come off second best.

If you think Ferguson is hard then McLean was harder. If Fergie was the wind-tunnel, McLean was the blast furnace. Walter (or Wattie as he was at the time) Smith was a reserve centre half for McLean at United and became his assistant.

Given that Smith took on the same role with Ferguson on two different occasions it would be fascinating to have him talk about the two in detail.

George Graham is another up for consideration. His Arsenal sides were far from entertaining (understatement) but he knew how to organize a side and to win trophies.

Kenny Dalglish, after having recently returned to the ranks of currently employed managers, is still writing chapters to be added to his original successes of a quarter of a century ago.

The next wave? Owen Coyle (Bolton), David Moyes (Everton), and Alex McLeish (Birmingham).  One to watch for – Paul Lambert of Norwich.

A language warning on the video but the good news is that many viewers will have trouble understanding what is being said. Nonetheless, it makes you wish that we would hear more honesty in manager interviews. It may start with Walter Smith taking the equivalent of the 5th and then he turns the table of interviewer Chick Young. It is a classic. You will never gets this in the Premier League or MLS!

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5 responses to “Walter Smith – Twenty Trophies and Counting”

  1. Soccerlogical says:

    Big fan of Walter Smith… calm, kool and collected.

    Kinda like me, right Bobby?


    Was Chick cryin a bit there?

  2. Bobby,

    Nice article. Even though I am not Scottish, I have often felt that some of the great Glasgow Rangers teams would have dominated in many other leagues, not just the Scottish one.

    Love the interview that you have on here…how refreshing, no minders or publicity types to massage the message. Just the truth, in a very “real” manner.

    I actually feel that the MLS needs a firebrand type of manager. It is a little sanitized at times at iri s with cheerleaders at some of the teams.. perhaps you have thoughts on this, I feel crowds here would develop their own songs/chants, etc without the “benefit” of being programmed whwn & what to sing….

    Your insights on the show are appreciated (& needed).



  3. Bridie Boy says:

    Great article Bobby. Have always liked Walter and said youtube clip never gets old.

  4. redfan says:

    Classic and even though I am from not far north of London, I have long had friends that hail from the environs around Sauchie Hall Street and so my ear is finely tuned. I think Chic Young must have been drunk or sleep walking to have taken that interview beyond the first 30 seconds lol. One he will always want to forget.
    I like the small plaudit to Kenny D, Bobby, and too true re Shanks.

  5. Bryan says:

    Bobby – Aren’t you forgetting Bill Struth?
    Or is it just those that you remember.

    Nice Walter Smith impression from Billy Connolly.
    And I’m guessing it’s the same Chick Young that writes for the Beeb?

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