'Absolutely devastated': Football in mourning over legend's death

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Sir Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith, pictured here at Manchester United in 2004.
Sir Alex Ferguson (centre) and Walter Smith (R) at Manchester United in 2004. (Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Sir Alex Ferguson has led the tributes to legendary manager Walter Smith after his former assistant's death at 73.

Scottish club Rangers announced the death of Smith - also a former Scotland and Everton manager - on Tuesday, with chairman Douglas Park saying the "club legend" had been battling illness.

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Smith led Rangers to 10 top-flight titles, five Scottish Cups and six League Cups as well as to the UEFA Cup final in 2008.

A former Dundee United and Dumbarton defender, he was appointed manager at Ibrox in 1991, succeeding Graeme Souness.

He won 13 major trophies in seven years, including seven league titles in succession, before leaving at the end of the 1997-98 season and subsequently joining Everton.

He stayed at Goodison Park for four seasons before a brief stint as assistant manager to Ferguson at Manchester United in 2004, where they won the FA Cup together.

Ferguson said he was "absolutely devastated" at the loss of his "great friend".

"In all that time you were dealing with a man with great moral compass in how he lived his life and the friendship he offered so many people," he said on United's website.

"His contribution to football with Dundee United, Rangers, Scotland, Everton and Man United was immense.

"He was only at United a short time. But he was fantastic. He listened and showed an interest in people and helped everyone he could."

Smith was appointed Scotland manager in December 2004 and was in charge for three years before returning to Rangers, where he won a further eight trophies before retiring in 2011 after completing another domestic double.

Walter Smith and wife Ethel, pictured here at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
Walter Smith and wife Ethel at Hampden Park in Glasgow. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Former Celtic player and manager Sir Kenny Dalglish said Smith was "one of the few able to transcend rivalries".

"Though we were on opposing sides on the pitch, he was a real footballing friend off of it," he said.

Souness and former Rangers chairman Sir David Murray said Scottish football had lost "one of its finest".

"Even in the proud history of Glasgow Rangers, Walter Smith stands out as a colossus. He will never be forgotten," they said in a joint statement to PA.

Smith's loss was also felt at Everton.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith, pictured here at a Manchester United training session.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith at a Manchester United training session. (Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

"He was one of the very best people I was lucky enough to meet in my lifetime in football," Everton chairman Bill Kenwright told the club's website.

"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."

Former Everton striker Wayne Rooney, who was coming through the youth ranks at Goodison Park during Smith's time in charge, said he was "devastated" by the news.

The former England captain tweeted: "Great man and a legend of the game. Condolences go to all his family and friends. RIP Walter."

Others also flocked to social media to pay tribute.

with AAP

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