In a long and distinguished career Walter Smith worked with some of the game’s finest. The best Scotland has produced, some memorable names from home and abroad, and trophy-laden individuals.
Picking a best XI from all those players is an onerous task. However, Smith racked his brain for the Daily Mail to choose a team, set-up in a 4-4-2 system.
The former Rangers manager added the caveat that he chose no players from his time as assistant manager at Manchester United because he did not work with the players long enough, while he made sure to select Ian Durrant, Paul Sturrock and Davie Narey as substitutes.
The bane of many Celtic fans’ existence as the goalkeeper helped Rangers to six of their nine-in-a-row. Smith said: “I don’t think I blamed him for a goal in five seasons.” He was Mr Consistent, and despite appearing to be on the short side for a goalkeeper he often produced unbelievable stops.
Despite being a left-back, Smith switched him to the right for his XI. He was an ever-present with Dundee United during their heyday in the 1980s, turning in dependable displays on a weekly, and often twice-weekly, basis. Malpas was somewhat of a modern full-back with the energy and technical skills to cover a whole flank.
One of only three men to appear in every season of Rangers’ nine-in-a-row, Gough was a leader and a legend. Similar to Malpas he was ahead of his time, capable of playing the ball from the back, combining it with a combative streak. He was also a fine reader of the game.
Smith calls the former England captain a “winner”. Butcher was a renowned and respected no-nonsense defender. Header, tackle, block and clear - anything to stop the opposition scoring. The type of player every team desires.
The only player from Smith’s second spell in charge at Rangers and a “surprise choice” according to Smith himself. One of the many players signed under Paul Le Guen, he was the biggest success, endearing himself to the Rangers faithful with his commitment and consistency.
Elegance personified. There were few more thrilling sights in Scottish football between 1994 and 1998 than the Dane picking up the ball and dribbling at, around and past opponents. The type of player who could make a drab game worthwhile. Simply put, a matchwinner
Goram, Butcher and Souness - a winning spine. The three-time European Cup winner was arguably a better manager on the pitch than he was off it. The midfield maestro is often known for his pugnacious approach but he was an incredibly gifted footballer who inspired those around him.
“A genius,” according to Smith. While he was a problematic personality from time to time, Smith allowed the playmaker greater freedom to bring the best out of him. Easily one of the most gifted player England has ever produced, he was a level above at Ibrox, handed the keys to the midfield.
In the 144-year history of the Scottish FA, Scotland have witnessed many special players, perhaps none more so than Cooper. A wing-star, Smith said it best years ago: “God gave Davie Cooper talent. He would not be disappointed with how it was used.”
Of course Super Ally was going to be included, what with more than 350 goals for Rangers alone. He did so by “moving when others stood still,” says Smith. He broke and made scoring records at Ibrox. He broke opposition hearts, while simultaneously making a lot of people very, very happy.
The traditional target man. The rangy striker played more games and scored more goal for Rangers than anyone else in a career which took in Detroit Express, Leeds United, Monaco and AC Milan where he scored the winner in a Milan derby, handing the Rossoneri their first derby win in six years.