Former Celtic boss Neil Lennon shares immense respect for Walter Smith

By Euan Davidson

October 27, 2021

Former Celtic boss Neil Lennon has shared his experiences of working against and meeting up with Walter Smith.

Smith passed away at age 73 yesterday morning, leaving behind an enormous legacy in Scottish football. A Rangers legend, he commanded respect across the country and further afield.

Deeply respected by Celtic bosses past and present, including his close friend Tommy Burns, Smith’s passing has led to a constant stream of tributes across football.

Those include Neil Lennon, who was in the opposing dugout to Smith in the early 2010s. And while they were rivals on the touchline, Lennon had immense respect for the former Rangers and Scotland manager.

Lennon said [Scottish Sun]:

“I learned a lot from Walter. I knew I was going up against a Rangers legend when I became Celtic manager.

“I relished the challenge but I was just starting out, while Walter had already done so much and earned the status as one of Scottish football’s best ever managers. I respected his longevity as a top boss, his success, and more than anything else, his mental strength.

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“Walter was a really intelligent football guy. He was always immaculate in his appearance.

“We had seven derbies in that 2010-11 season. It was a titanic year and we got pipped at the post in the league and also lost to Rangers in the League Cup. It was still a great learning experience for me and I picked up a lot that season going up against Walter.

“I’m upset because I respected Walter a lot. He was a massive figure in Scottish football. But people will also speak about him in just as great terms as a person, and rightly so.

“I’ll never forget how Walter helped me during some of my toughest times.”

Respect for Walter Smith is enormous, regardless of allegiance: Neil Lennon comments epitomise that

It says a great deal that some of the biggest “Celtic men” have, and had, enormous respect for Walter Smith. Tommy Burns of course, but Billy McNeill was a big fan of his. Now, Neil Lennon has said Smith helped him in some acutely difficult moments, and that he learned from Smith.

The partisanship speaks for itself. You’d like to think, though, that when tragedy befalls either support, there’s mutual support and condolence there. That’s exactly what we’ve seen since Walter Smith’s passing.

Let’s make no mistake; Smith and his teams made our lives miserable for long periods of time. But there was never anything nasty about Smith. He was more of a worthy foe than an enemy.

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

This is a touching, meaningful tribute from Neil Lennon.

Lennon, of course, was making his first steps in management when he came up against Walter Smith. That a Rangers man of such repute would reach out to him, even help him?

That says a huge amount.

It’s testament to the man that he could make friends across the Glasgow divide in the modern era. Especially a manager who broke Celtic hearts on such a regular basis.

Read more: Scotland man Paul McGinn on using Celtic game to arrest bad Hibernian form