When Graeme Murty earned two of his four Scotland caps under Walter Smith’s management, he admits he wasn’t fully appreciative of the tactical instruction being dispensed.
“He played me at wing-back, which was a position I always hated,” recalls Murty of his role in Scotland’s Kirin Cup success back in 2006 when he played in the 5-1 win over Bulgaria and 0-0 draw with hosts Japan which secured a rare piece of silverware for the national team.
“I just ran for as long as I was on the pitch and never saw the ball,” adds Murty with a grin. “Walter seemed to think I could keep on doing that. I thanked him for the faith in me, but not the position he played me in!”
Now as an increasingly impressive interim manager of Rangers, Murty has revealed he is more than eager to soak up as much information and advice as he can from former Ibrox boss Smith who is a regular visitor to the club’s training ground.
Since starting his second caretaker stint following Pedro Caixinha’s sacking in October, Murty has been operating with a pared-down backroom staff of first-team coach Jonatan Johansson, head of performance Craig Flannigan and his academy assistant David McCallum.
Now in charge until at least the end of the year, Murty admits the club would need to look at supplying him with further support if his tenure was extended any further. In the meantime, he is grateful for the impromptu input he has been receiving from his old Scotland gaffer.
Now 69, Smith retired in 2011 following the second of his two highly successful spells as Rangers manager which delivered 21 trophies.
“I got some brilliant advice this week from Walter,” said Murty. “He is always on tap and was sat in the academy office along the corridor, holding court because his grandsons were in playing in our community programme.
“I spent an hour just listening to the maestro talk about football, talk about Rangers, and it is an absolute lesson in itself just listening to the man. That, for me, is as good as having someone else to take the workload away. Just having that time away from the madness to go and talk about football in general with Walter is brilliant.
“Whenever you work alongside or in close proximity to a high level operator like him, it is incumbent on you to go there with the open-mindedness and grateful nature to absorb as much as you can. That is what I tried to do throughout my career as a player and a coach, to absorb as many lessons as I can from those people at the top of their game and try and incorporate bits.
“You can’t incorporate it all, I can’t be Walter Smith, I am not trying to be Walter Smith. But if there is one thing you take from him to enhance your own practice, then you have to do it. You have to go and look outside yourself to those great operators and see what you can take.
“If you don’t mind, the questions I asked Walter will remain between myself and him. But from my first spell in charge of the under-20s when I first came to the club, he has been in the office regularly.
“He is a fixture around the place so you can go and talk to him and he is very forthcoming. He is not stinting in his advice and that is a measure of the man. He is so open and honest with you that you could probably ask him anything you wanted and he would give you a straight answer.
“The workload for me has gone up because of the number of games recently. I hadn’t actually considered bringing in another assistant, primarily because I didn’t think I’d still be doing the job right now.
“It’s possibly something to consider moving forward but at the moment what we are doing is supporting each other really well. I get support from lots of people like Craig and David, who was my assistant in my first spell. I have very good sounding boards for me to go and vent and rant at and very good advice from other people like Walter.”