How Billy Connolly helped Walter Smith manage Paul Gascoigne

Walter Smith and Paul Gascoigne celebrate after Rangers had won their eighth title in a row. Picture: Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images
Walter Smith and Paul Gascoigne celebrate after Rangers had won their eighth title in a row. Picture: Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images
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Despite all his experience, as a player, a coach and a manager, Walter Smith turned to Billy Connolly for worldly advice on how to deal with the genius of Paul Gascoigne.

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Paul Gascoigne celebrates a goal with Davie Robertson during the Scottish Premier League match between Rangers and Aberdeen. Picture: Ben Radford/Getty Images

Paul Gascoigne celebrates a goal with Davie Robertson during the Scottish Premier League match between Rangers and Aberdeen. Picture: Ben Radford/Getty Images

Gazza wowed Scottish football between 1995 and 1998 after making the move from Lazio to Rangers, winning two league titles, a Scottish Cup and a League Cup.

He thrilled fans with his skill, vision and technical ability, while also providing a number of humorous and controversial moments along the way. Yet, he was famed for being a challenging personality to handle.

However, a chance encounter with Celtic fan Connolly saw Smith gleam valuable wisdom from the famed funnyman, as he explained in an interview with the Daily Mail’s Hugh MacDonald.

“I was in Glasgow one day, about 20 years ago, the first time I was at Rangers,” Smith said. “I met Billy and he asked me: ‘How are you getting on with Gascoigne?’

“I said: ‘Fine but there’s always a wee problem here and there’.

“Billy smiled and said: ‘Always remember this, Walter. You will always have to live with the genius. The genius will not live with you’.

“There is an element that you have to put up with the genius. Sometimes you have to take action and rein the personality in. But you have to accept foibles. You have to accommodate them.”

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Understanding the inspirational talent he and Rangers had at their hands, Smith allowed Gazza a certain amount of freedom, not necessarily available to other players. The former-Rangers boss, in two spells, explained to his squad the importance of the Englishman and his thinking behind giving him a longer leash.

“I hear people in football talking about everybody being treated the same,” he told MacDonald. “They are lying. The majority of guys in a football dressing room know that ones who are the exceptional player will be allowed a bit of laxity.

“With Gascoigne, I had to sit down with the whole dressing room and tell them: ‘This is what we have here. We have a boy who will win us games. So we all have to handle him’.

“Gascoigne didn’t know what he had. He knew he was good. But he hadn’t a clue about being asked to do something or another. He didn’t want to know about tactics.

“He played in midfield. That was that. he didn’t have a further thought. He had the genius for it, though, and that was what Billy was talking abut.

“The team and I had to work with that. You have to put up with genius. You can become frustrated. And then he wins you a game.

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