Smith: It's not about me
Walter Smith is desperate for Rangers to clinch a third successive Scottish Premier League title on Sunday and see his players finally earn the credit he feels they have been denied so far.
The visit to Kilmarnock will be Smith's final game as Rangers manager but the 63-year-old is adamant the occasion will not be about him. He enjoyed an emotional lap of honour after his last match at Ibrox in midweek and is keen to see the team earn the plaudits this time if they produce the win that seals the SPL crown.
He said: "On Tuesday night, I got the credit for what has gone previously. At times, the players' input to that level of success hasn't been fully appreciated and they can cement that by winning on Sunday.
"We have been playing well recently and, if we win the game, I would hope the focus of attention would be placed firmly on the team.''
Financial worries before Craig Whyte's takeover was finally completed last week have meant a period of uncertainty for both management and playing staff in recent years. And Smith says few players would have been willing to endure the difficult circumstances his squad have coped with.
"What's kept them going is what has kept them going over the last two-and-a-half-years - there has been a spirit, there has been a determination and there has been a good level of football. I don't think we can forget that," he added.
"I sometimes think a number of them don't get the praise they deserve for the level of performance they have turned in. Sunday's game is everything for them and there are not many teams who manage to win three championships in a row no matter where you're from.''
Smith is aiming for his 10th title over two spells at Rangers and added: "It's always a challenge, regardless of where you are. That's where my situation at Everton helped me a great deal in terms of handling what was happening at Rangers over the period. I learned a lot there.
"But the main aspect, and the main reason we have been successful, is the way the players have accepted the situation that they've been placed in.
"There are not an awful lot of players who would have accepted that as readily as they have and continue to give the level of commitment that they have given.
"While a manager like myself can take the plaudits that were much appreciated on Tuesday night, Sunday's game is all about our team.''
Despite having lured talent such as Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne to Ibrox in the past, Smith insists the class of 2011 are up there with the best he has managed previously.
He said: "We may not have the sort of iconic names that have played for Rangers teams in the past but we've had a group of players who have given everything for the club to try to make it successful.
"They have had to put up with being up for sale for two-and-a-half-years, they have seen good players leave the club and they have operated in the circumstance where their own contracts haven't been renewed in the time they would maybe have hoped for. They have carried on with a level of commitment to the club that's been nothing short of fantastic.''
Smith answered an SOS from then chairman Sir David Murray when he returned to Rangers in January 2007, having enjoyed a hugely successful period at the club in the 1990s. Reflecting on his time with the Light Blues, Smith said: "It's a privilege to start with to be asked to become the manager of Rangers.
"When I was asked to be the manager, it was probably the biggest thing that's happened in my career. I've been lucky, that's 17 years I've been involved with the club and it's been a relatively successful period for us.
"It's been a huge thing for me, it's been great to be involved with the club for that length of time. First and foremost, it's just been a privilege on my own part to have worked for them.''
"I honestly don't have any future plans. I'm not leaving Rangers with the intention of looking for another job. I enjoy the job I've got here. This is my choice, it's my decision, which is different from my previous time here and my time at Everton, where I got sacked.
"Sir David does it very nicely with his managers - you don't mention the 'sack' word but effectively it's the same thing. I'm going through my own choice this time and I go not looking for anything else. If someone asks me, then I'll consider it, but I don't go with the intention of working again. Otherwise, I might well have stayed here.''