It would appear I’m making a habit of writing about my chats with Scottish superstars who had no airs or graces.

Last week it was Nobel laureate Professor David MacMillan – the Bellshill -born boffin who, despite living in the States for 30 years, summed up how he felt about his award by telling Off The Ball listeners: “Aw man, it wiz mental…”

And today I’m paying tribute to another down-to-earth national hero – a guy who was also no stranger to winning big prizes – the late, great Walter Smith who sadly passed away on Tuesday. Having spent just a wee bit of time in the company of the legendary Rangers and Scotland boss, I wasn’t surprised that all the kind, heart-felt words from his friends and colleagues focused on the fact that, yep, he was a great manager – but an even better man.

Rangers' players observe a minute's silence for legendary manager Walter Smith who passed away aged 73
Rangers' players observe a minute's silence for legendary manager Walter Smith who passed away aged 73

Graeme Souness – who once described Walter as “the best signing I ever made at Rangers” – spoke warmly of a super friend and thoroughly decent man.

Celtic legend Sir Kenny Dalglish – perhaps with a nod to Walter being a coffin-bearer at Tommy Burns’ funeral – said he was one of the few able to transcend rivalries.

And, in a quite amazing – and extremely moving – tribute on TalkSport, his dear friend Ally McCoist described him as “my second father”.

Like Prof MacMillan, we also had the pleasure of Walter’s company on Off The Ball (circa 2005) and it’s a day I’ll never forget.

We were doing the show from a school in Dalmellington, Ayrshire,and the kids in the audience were absolutely star-struck.

Honestly, it was as if Santa Claus had just walked into their classroom.

Fans gather to leave tributes for Rangers legend Walter Smith
Fans gather to leave tributes for Rangers legend Walter Smith

Walter was brilliant with the weans – the autograph and photo session lasted longer than the two-hour programme – and he was also great with the presenters (me & Cosgrove). On the way back up the A77 in the BBC car, he suddenly said: “Are we no’ getting a pint or something?”

Five minutes later, we pulled into the King’s Arms in Fenwick – it was Grand National day and the place was mobbed – and Walter once again held court and spent ages chatting to the punters.

At one point, a local character came up to our table and said: “Right, Walter, can I do my impression of you?”

Convinced the fella was simply going to do an impression of Jonathan Watson doing an impression of Walter Smith, well, let’s just say he reacted with the sort of facial expression last seen when Peter Van Vossen missed that sitter at Celtic Park. However, the boy whipped off his jacket and – with a huge smile on his face – revealed a Walter-style sleeveless cardigan!

The fashion icon loved it and insisted on buying the guy a drink.

A year or so later, I interviewed the now Scotland boss – and his No2 Ally McCoist – outside the Caledonian Stadium in Inverness before an Under-21 game.

It was for my old BBC1 football show Offside (surely you remember Jock The Cock?) and I was delighted to discover the two-minute clip is still available on YouTube.

I posted it on my Instagram page this week in honour of Walter and the reaction was incredible. “Thanks, Tam,” said one Rangers fan, “that’s the first time I’ve smiled today.”

It was a chat about the forthcoming 2006 World Cup and (spoiler alert!) let’s just say that Walter – egged on by his sidekick Coisty – admitted being a big fan of Brazilians…

Check it out, folks. It’s NEARLY as good as the legendary Chick Young video (which I still watch at least three times a week).

More recently, I had the pleasure of hosting a couple of Q&A nights with Walter – one in Dundee with Graeme Souness and the other in Forfar alongside his old No2 Archie Knox. On both occasions – and this rarely happens, I can assure you, at

football events with plenty of bevvy on the go – you could have heard a pin drop every time the star guest opened his mouth.

The last time I spoke to Walter Smith? I was sharing the top table with him at the Scottish Football Writers’ bash a couple of years ago and, when I sat down after my 30-minute spot, he leaned over and said: “That was great, son.”

And I felt as though I’d just scored Scotland’s winner for him in the World Cup Final.

Thanks for your time, Walter, and may you rest in peace.