Today's star is the man that God goes to for answers, the very epitome of dignity combined with savoir-faire. It doesn't matter how many European Cups Jock Stein won, or the fact that Willie Ormond took the national team to the World Cup and emerged unbeaten, only failing to go through on goal difference. As far as our media is concerned, there's only one candidate for the best football manager Scotland has ever produced. No, it's not Alex Ferguson. I speak, of course, of the amazing, incredible, fantastic Mr. Walter Smith OBE. EBT (?)
When Rangers won nine league championships in a row in 1997, you'd have thought that it was a feat that had never been achieved before. It was conveniently forgotten that Graeme Souness had been in charge for the first three of those nine and Smith was given full credit. All during this period Rangers was full of top international players, which Smith was able to sign due to David Murray's seemingly unlimited funds. Anyone suggesting that Smith was merely a 'chequebook manager', however, was given short shrift. He was, apparently, a master tactician, a 'wily old fox' as our media called him. There were even some sycophants that coined a nickname for him, The Silver Fox.
When Smith left Rangers to manage Everton, however, he was soon found wanting. With no money to sign big-name players, he was completely out of his depth and Everton supporters were soon demanding that he 'fox off'. Despite his abject failure at Everton, the myth was still being peddled that he was the best manager in the world. Obviously, when the Scotland manager's job became available there was only one man the SFA could turn to. Smith, of course, was no great shakes in this job either; though you'd never guess from what our media had to say about it.
When he deserted the SFA to run back to Rangers it was time to get the chequebook out again. Despite all the claims to the contrary, Smith wasn't working with no money; there was no way he could succeed as a manager without throwing money at the team. Of course, we know now where these funds were coming from and how Rangers were able to pay even more to players. We know they cheated, but what about Smith himself?
During his two tenures at Rangers, Smith was the beneficiary of numerous dodgy refereeing decisions. English commentators were always dumbfounded at some of these decisions, wondering what the hell was going on. Of course, when decisions went against Smith's team he wasn't backward in letting everyone now about it, usually shouting in officials' faces, showering them with spit in the process. Unbelievably, on the whole, he was allowed to get away with this behaviour. He refused, however, to comment on all the decisions that benefited his team, normally commenting, "I didn't see the incident." This voluntary blindness was to stand him in good stead when the shit finally hit the fan.
It isn't often that Smith is questioned about anything but on the (very) few occasions that he has been asked about the tax dodging that funded his success, he never knew anything about it. What did he know about EBTs and the like? He was just concerned with the football. That's a laugh! He wasn't concerned with the football at Everton when he moaned and bleated about lack of funds! Money was what his whole style of management was about and it stretches credulity more than a bit for him to suggest that he was blind and deaf to what was going on.
The blindness and deafness seemed to come in handy as well when Smith joined the Sevco board as chairman. He knew nothing about onerous contracts or shady dealings, or anything else that was alleged to have taken place in the Blue Room. What the hell was he doing? He must have been sitting with a bag over his head or, more likely, he wasn't important enough to be involved in the actual business. Not that he'd ever admit that. All the evidence points to him believing everything our media has had to say about him.
One thing that our media always praises Smith for is his 'dignity'. Quite how they reach this conclusion about him is puzzling. As well as the aforementioned verbal assaults on match officials, Smith has also indulged in physical assaults on other managers and even, on at least one occasion, on his own staff. The funniest-looking incident was when he went for Mixu Paatelainen, who would easily have torn Smith a new arse. Smith reminded me of the children you get, lashing out at a teacher, secure in the knowledge that the teacher can't hit back. He made sure there were plenty of folk around to 'hold him back' when he carried out his attack.
Of course, all these incidents were brushed under the carpet and were not allowed to tarnish the image of Smith being built up by the Scottish media. Contrast this with the way Neil Lennon was portrayed after - gasp! - kicking a water bottle in frustration. This was the crime of the century and only went to show that Lennon brought all the death threats, bombs and bullets on himself.
Anyway, to sum up, Walter Smith, Mr. Dignity, has benefited substantially from cheating galore. As well as all the dodgy decisions by match officials, the football authorities let him away with absolute murder. Anyone else behaving the way he did would have been up before the beak constantly. And when it came to the UEFA Cup final in 2008, Smith demanded, and got, a postponement of the Scottish Cup final, without, it must be added, any consultation with the other finalist, Queen of the South. Even that wasn't enough for Mr. Dignity, as he demanded that the league be extended as well, probably to August. When Celtic asked for some leeway in 2003, they were essentially told to fuck off!
And then there's Smith's infamous profligacy. All the blame for Rangers' overspending tends to be landed on Dick Advocaat's shoulders, but Mr. Dignity did more than his fair share. This was money that Rangers didn't have and the taxpayer is still paying for all the bank loans that funded Smith's success. Speaking of taxpayers, there are the tax-dodging schemes as well, which, yet again, are unfairly seen as purely something that happened during the Advocaat years. They were still in operation when Auld Dignity came back to Ibrox, while nobody has bothered to investigate what was going on when he was first in charge. His silence on the whole issue, not even confirming or denying that he benefited personally from the EBT scheme, is never going to be challenged by our media and he knows it. What's that thing the police say, "You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court." The auld bastard's guilty, and he knows it!
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