Walter Smith thinks it is unlikely any Scottish club will ever sail as close to Champions League glory as his Rangers side did in the early 1990s.
Speaking this week to the Stornoway Gazette, while visiting the Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club (which has been officially recognised by the club as the world’s biggest), Smith reflected on being promoted from assistant to Graeme Souness to full manager in his own right while snubbing the chance to follow his friend to Anfield.
Smith also beamed with pride as he looked back on Rangers’ glorious run to the brink of the Champions League final in 1992/93.
“I was born and brought up in Glasgow with Rangers supporters in my family. Not having played for the club and then going in as assistant manager initially, there are not that many people who get promoted from assistant to full manager,” he said.
“When I was asked to take over from Graeme Souness it was the highlight of my career.
“When Graeme left for Liverpool he asked me to go with him. I didn’t think there was a place for me to go down there but he wanted me to anyway. For me it was down to Sir David Murray as I could have found myself out of a job.
“It was an awkward time in that 10-day period between Graeme leaving and Sir David offering me the job.”
In 1992/93 Rangers threatened to gatecrash the biggest footballing party of all in the Champions League final with a sensational season on the continent – buoyed by a run of 10-matches unbeaten.
No Scottish side since has ever come so close to reaching the final of club football’s most prestigious prize and as the elite clubs of Europe reap more riches it is unlikely a Scottish club will again under the current system.
“Things change,” said Smith as he reflected on the run which saw them miss out on the final by a single point.
“When you look back on the early 90s for us to beat Leeds United, the English champions, was huge. Now I think it would be very improbable for a Scottish team to face up and beat the Chelsea’s and Manchester City’s.
“We don’t have the same ability of matching finances like we did in the early 90s. People forget Sky TV were only starting out, the English teams had been banned from Europe for a number of years.
“And the teams we were playing like AC Milan and Marseille were good with some very good players, but if you look at the Real Madrid’s and Barcelona’s of today they are filled with the best players in the world so things have changed.
“When you do get a run like that you take it and you thoroughly enjoy it. You obviously feel a little bit unfortunate we didn’t quite make it in the end.
“The improvement in our team from the first match against Marseille in the section to the next game against them was massive. Marseille were better than us at Ibrox but equally we were much better than them in the second in France.”
While Smith lured the likes of Gazza, Laudrup, Lorenzo Amoruso and Jorg Albertz to Govan there was one star name which he thought he had hooked but he couldn’t quite land in the year the club were chasing down their ultimately failed 10-in-a-row bid.
He added: “There was quite a few who you go and see but in the latter stages Gianluca Vialla was one we thought was going to come to us.
“He ended up at Chelsea and we lost out but if we had got him at that stage he was the type of player I feel would have been terrific for us and would have given us a boost in my last year going for 10-in-a-row but it wasn’t to be.”