Rangers boss Steven Gerrard fought back tears as he spoke of being made “a better person” by Walter Smith, who has died aged 73.
Smith, who also managed Everton and Scotland in between stints as Ibrox boss, led Rangers to 10 top-flight titles, five Scottish Cups and six League Cups as well as to the 2008 UEFA Cup final.
Ahead of Wednesday’s home cinch Premiership game against Aberdeen, Gerrard, in an emotional interview with Rangers TV, told of the impact Smith had on him since he moved into the Gers hot-seat in 2018.
He said: “It is still obviously very raw but it is a very sad day for everyone connected to the club.
“Walter was an incredible leader, a very successful manager here at Rangers and he epitomised everything this club stands for. His DNA is all over the club and it is obviously very sad news.
“He has been right behind me since day one. I had many lunches, dinners, coffees and chats and private time with him in the office.
“He is obviously going to be a very big loss and miss to a lot of people.
“He is decorated all over the club and he will be forever because he gave many years to this club. He was honest, he was genuine and he has made me a better person so I have nothing but good words to say.
“I have been the lucky one to know him and spend time with him, so have a lot of other people who will have their own special memories of a great man.
“It is going to be emotional in the coming days and weeks but the best tribute I and we as a team can do is be united, get the fans behind us and try to win the game (on Wednesday). That will be the best tribute we can give.”
Gerrard admits Smith’s death will make the visit of the Dons even more difficult but is looking for the three points to keep the Light Blues still at least three points ahead of Hearts at the top of the table.
He said: “When you play Aberdeen it is tough anyway because they are a good team.
“And obviously the news from (Tuesday) will make it even more tough, of course it is.
“But we need to be united, the fans, the players everyone at the club and do our best in the circumstances and, as I say, the biggest tribute we can do is remember him and honour him by trying to put in a performance and get three points for him and his family.”