The Dugout - McLeish hails 'class act' Smith

Sat, 14 May 08:13:00 2011

Exclusive: Alex McLeish says there is 'no doubt' that Walter Smith will leave Rangers after winning a 10th SPL title on Sunday.

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Smith bows out as Ibrox manager on Sunday and former Rangers boss McLeish believes they will beat Kilmarnock to pip Celtic to the championship.

McLeish also said Smith was the perfect role model for Old Firm bosses Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist to follow next season.

The Scottish title race has tilted back in Rangers' favour - do you think they will get over the line this weekend?

I don't believe there's any doubt now, in my opinion. I know that the last day can spring a surprise, as I've been involved in last-day drama myself, but I just feel that this Rangers team have come this far forward together. The whole season there's been a fantastic spirit among them, maybe because Walter Smith hasn't had a big squad where there's dissent among players who have been left out every other week. I think they'll win the league and they'll do it with a fairly small squad. I know there are tired legs among those Rangers players, but I think it's given them a togetherness and a spirit where they've managed to do the damage to the opposition in the first half of games.

How impressive have Walter Smith's achievements at Rangers been, particularly in his second spell when he has had financial constraints to deal with?

He knows the game, Walter. He's a very shrewd coach, he has great tactical knowledge, he knows how to set up a team and he knows very quickly how to build a team, and he has done that in a relatively short space of time. Walter is a gracious guy and a hugely talented manager. He's won I don't know how many titles now and it's a phenomenal record to do three in a row - under the financial constraints it's phenomenal, fantastic, I've nothing but admiration for him.

Next season there could be two very young managers in charge of Celtic and Rangers, in Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist. As a former Old Firm manager what would be the best piece of advice you could give to them?

I saw a great quote from somebody a few weeks ago saying the only thing Neil Lennon is guilty of is passion. And that is definitely something you could level at Neil and certainly also Ally McCoist. And my advice to them would be - in that job, at that stature of club, with those expectation levels, you have to maintain a bit of dignity and class. I think Walter Smith epitomises it. As I said, he's been a class act, he's a gracious guy but he also has the class of a top, top man. A top leader.

What's your view of Craig Whyte's takeover at Rangers and how important was it for them to find a new owner?

Well, it was clearly the end of an era, with Sir David Murray abdicating the throne. They're a huge club Rangers, but in terms of financial stature David Murray put a lot of money in, in order that Rangers would win the European Cup. He never quite managed it but the Rangers fans owe him a debt of gratitude. Who would have thought the guy would come in and win nine titles in a row, the cups that he won, getting to a European final - all that in David Murray's history. I'm sure any Rangers fan, if you had said that to them at the outset, when he came in, would have absolutely bitten your hand off. And I know some people still like to have a moan, but I think he's done a marvellous job, and Craig Whyte looks as if, despite only having two games in charge, is going to win his first championship! So, it's a great start for him, and if he does half as well as David Murray it's a great acquisition for Rangers, but it's great to see them getting out of the financial doldrums at the moment and I hope Craig is successful for the club.

Alex McLeish was speaking to Yahoo!'s 'The Dugout' through its partnership with the League Managers Association