Walter Smith - The Early Years

On 26th October 2021 it was announced Walter Smith, a Scottish football great, had passed away. Walter may now be no longer with us, but let's not forget his early years in Scottish football. @AlexHTheMAX explores his Scottish domestic (and American) football connections before he made it as a top manager.

Cover star of (the now defunct) Football Scot in 1971


Most football fans will be well aware of the role the late Walter Smith played in management at Rangers, Everton and Scotland as well as an assistant boss at Ibrox under Souness, Dundee Utd (with Jim McLean) and at Man United with Sir Alex.

However, Walter also made his mark in the Scottish game, albeit modestly, as a player.

Walter Smith was born in Lanark but spent his formative years in Carmyle, Glasgow. He was signed for Dundee United by pipe-smoking manager Jerry Kerr from Scottish Junior side Ashfield Juniors of Glasgow in 1966. Walter was part of the 16-man squad that travelled to the USA after United were invited to play as Dallas Tornado in the United (USA) Soccer Association. He became a regular in the Dundee United team in 1971 and played in United's first Scottish Cup final in 1974 (lost 3-0 to Celtic at Hampden), before leaving to join Dumbarton in 1975, where he helped guide the unfashionable "Sons of the Rock" to a Scottish Cup Semi Final v Hearts with Rangers waiting in the 1976 final.

Walter (on the ground) v Hearts for Dumbarton in Scottish Cup Semi-Final (1976)


Sadly, Hearts proved too strong for Dumbarton in the Hampden semi before Rangers won the final 3-1 against the Edinburgh side.

Walter went back to Dundee Utd in 1977, with Jim McLean now in full control at Tannadice, before packing up playing officially in 1980 due to a pelvic injury. Walter would then be Jim McLean's right hand man as he guided United to the Scottish Premier League title in 1983 with the league being clinched across the road in a win v Dundee FC at Dens Park.

Walter's stint as a "Dallas Tornado" player also saw United change their official colours from black and white to Tangerine and Black, such was the popularity of the kit amongst players,  when United guested as Dallas in a championship match in the USA. The team they played against was LA Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers in disguise).

These games in the USA (Aberdeen became Washington Whips by the way, while being reborn in the USA for summer tour purposes) would help establish the NASL and the influx of top European players to the new franchise teams Stateside.

Walter's part in the Scots/American adventure was not largely highlighted as the obits poured in on the sad day his death was announced.

The real Dallas Tornado turned out to be one of the longest serving franchise in the NASL with a 19 year old Smith going back to the States on loan to the club United impersonated in his first year as a professional player. 

Walter played 108 league games (2 goals) in his first Dundee Utd stint (1966-75) and 28 league games in his second United stint (1977-80). He played 44 times for Dumbarton and 3 times as a Dallas Tornado loan star.

Walter as Scotland boss, assisted by Tommy Burns (L) and Ally McCoist (R)


By Alex Horsburgh, written for @TFHBs

©The Football History Boys, 2021
(All pictures borrowed and not owned in any form by TFHB)

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