Alex Smith: Living in the Hall of Fame

By CONNOR PARK

WHEN Alex Smith sets foot through the doors of the Falkirk Stadium every morning he sees a club that has come a long way throughout his near seven-year tenure.

He’s very proud of all his achievements and all of the players whom he has developed over the years.

Smith’s time at Falkirk is just a minuscule part of a decorated career that has included two Scottish Cup wins.

That illustrious career has now finally been recognised by the Scottish Football Association who have inducted the 76-year old into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.

Smith has long visited Hampden and often visits the Hall of Fame to adore his friends who have their spot on the hallowed wall, now finally he has his own spot.

He said: “There’s absolutely no doubt about it, it was a tremendous surprise and a great honour for me to be inducted into the Scottish Football Association Hall of Fame.

“I see myself representing all those ordinary guys who came into coaching from a fractured background in their playing career.

“After getting injured early in my career, coaching was my next avenue and it’s amazing the amount of players who have to do that.

“I found it unusual that unlike my pal, Billy Bremner who had a big club playing career and won 50 caps, my first job was Stenhousemuir and that’s where it all started.

“I was always so proud of Billy having his picture up there in Hampden and seeing it every time I went.

“It’s been a fantastic journey for me culminating in getting the honour of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“I was so proud to be up there with my mates like Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith. To be there and receiving it was a great thrill, it was an honour for everyone I’ve worked with and helped.”

It’s hard to fathom that such a man, who is a role-model to so many, has people whom he is in awe of himself.

A humble person, Smith recalls his first steps into management at Stenhousemuir and Stirling Albion. He was venturing into an unassuming career with no idea the success that would transpire.

He said: “Football provides a lot of memories, some disappointing ones, some ordinary ones, but some fantastic ones that all come back in moments like that.

“There are so many people that I need to thank for me getting that award, so many good people who have been a part of my career.

“Peter Cowan, Jim Weir and the Committee at Stenhousemuir who supported me throughout that period and those who gave me my chance at Ochilview.

“I remember being a little bit surprised that I was offered the job so I always took it very much one week at a time.

“I was fortunate that I got the opportunity to work with a club who let me make my mistakes and have no fear of losing my job.

“Bob Shankly, a former Falkirk player and a legend of a man invited me to take charge of Stirling Albion, the club I worked for and supported as a youngster.

“I worked closely at Stirling with Bob and George Peebles who was my assistant, he sadly died just a month ago.

“Those two men were so good for me, particularly Bob who was like an encyclopedia on football, if you asked a question he had an answer.

“He left me a legacy and gave me so much strength and confidence.”

Following those stints in the lower leagues Smith moved on to St Mirren. Taking over a comfortable Premier League side was never going to be enough for this ambitious manager though.

Smith wanted silverware and he set out a plan as to how he was going to get it.

He added: “When I went to St Mirren it started an exciting period in my career.

“I appointed Jimmy Bone who was another great colleague of mine as my assistant and I remember sitting down with the players and having a discussion.

“We weren’t going to win the league and we were in no danger of being relegated so I said why don’t we have a real go at winning the Scottish Cup?

“It meant winning five games, taking it one game a time and really concentrating but we did it.”

His eye for a player and striking passion for the game led Smith onto jobs at Aberdeen, Clyde, Dundee United and Ross County among others.

Another Scottish Cup victory followed at the Dons as he became only the third person to win two Scottish Cups as a manager.

Stints with the SFA in coaching roles from every level up to and including the Scotland B team added further clout to a polished CV, before eventually moving into his current job as Technical Director of Falkirk FC.

Smith has watched the club grow and develop, he’s been a major part of bringing it back from the brink.

Now he’s more determined than ever that he’ll see the club back into the Scottish Premiership.

He confessed: “It would mean everything. For Falkirk to obtain promotion with the structure we have now it would be great.

“There’s no doubt about it. This club has made a number of big decisions but two of the best things this club has ever made is creating the academy and getting the plastic pitch.

“You need stability within the club to progress, everyone is important here.

“Nobody is allowed to feel inferior or superior, if we spent equal time challenging up there and being recognised we’d be getting equal crowds to Dundee United somewhere around eight, nine or ten thousand.”

The passion for football will never leave Alex Smith, of that there is no doubt.

There is a twinkle in his eye as he sets foot out of the tunnel at the Falkirk Stadium every morning, a fight that shows he is determined to bring success to his beloved Bairns.

Now though, that step has an extra spring in it, bolstered by the pride of being inducted into the Scottish Football Association Hall of Fame.

For Smith it’s not just about the player but the person. He knows that not everyone will make it in football but there is no doubt that there is no player who has worked under his stewardship and hasn’t been enriched by his knowledge.

He has time for everyone, a story for every situation but most of all he genuinely cares.

Everything he does has a purpose and there are many within not just football but life in general that could do far worse than spend half an hour in the company of such a fine gent.

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