It was 23 years ago today that the pressure of trying to lead Rangers to a historic tenth title in a row finally came to a head for Walter Smith.

A man who rarely showed his emotion, the legendary former Ibrox boss held back tears as he announced at the club’s AGM that he would depart the dug-out at the end of that season.

He described the standing ovation he received after his announcement at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on this day in 1997 as the best of all the things that had happened to him during his first spell as boss.

Yet up until that point, many on their feet that day would have been calling for his head. It’s usually the way with fickle football fans, particularly the Old Firm.

And that criticism he came in for in the opening three months of such a massive campaign contributed to his decision to reveal he would step down.

It’s ironic that the anniversary of Smith’s shock announcement comes at a time when Neil Lennon is going through exactly the same in his quest to succeed where his former rival failed in winning 10-in-a-row for Celtic.

Smith is the only man who knows the pressure Lennon is under right now and disgruntled Hoops legions putting the boot into their boss should take note of the words of their nemesis all those years ago.

For the ex-Gers manager revealed at the time that his decision was partly down to the fact HE was becoming the problem and that heaped added pressure onto the players with so much at stake.

With various polls on whether Lennon should continue as boss and phone-ins red hot with a section of fans urging him to go, it is likely to have a damaging effect on what they crave most.

That is not to say the Irishman is beyond criticism or they aren’t going through a sticky patch but given they would be just three points behind leaders Rangers if they win their game in hand then those problems must be put in context.

The Light Blues were in a similar position back in 1997. Like Celtic this season, they missed out on the Champions League group stage after a disastrous 3-0 defeat away to IFK Gothenburg.

And it went from bad to worse in Europe when they then lost home and away to Strasbourg in the UEFA Cup after being parachuted into the continent’s second tier competition.

Throw in a League Cup loss at home to Dundee United and you can see why Smith came in for criticism, especially after spending big that summer.

But the Holy Grail was 10-in-a-row and it was the fear of missing out on that really saw the pressure cranked up - and is the same with Lennon now following Sunday’s draw at Pittodrie.

Rangers only lost their first league game of that season three days before the AGM where Smith made his announcement when they went down 2-1 at Dundee United.

But a couple of unlikely home draws prior to that - against Aberdeen and Motherwell - meant a 2-0 win for Celtic at home to St Johnstone (the same scoreline that would eventually clinch the league on the final day that season) saw the Hoops claim top spot.

That defeat at Tannadice was enough to send Gers fans into a panic as the pressure mounted and Smith tried to relieve a bit of that by announcing he was leaving.

“I felt that there was a lot of pressure on the players because of the pressure on me,” he said a few days later. “I felt that a lot of the pressure on the players came from me as the manager.

“The expectations of the club became greater with every championship we won, and obviously that led to more pressures. There is no divine right for any club to be successful.”

While his decision might have been designed to help rally the players and give them one last push, it is now regarded as having been a factor in Rangers losing the title that season and ending the campaign trophyless for the first time in 13 years.

Smith was in his dream position in charge of his boyhood heroes where he had dominated Scottish football but spoke of “a growing sense of anti-climax about the job”.

It’s hard to imagine Lennon won’t be feeling the same despite his incredible success as a player and now second spell as boss given some of the undeserved vitriol aimed towards him.

But it’s what happens now that is key. Kenny Dalglish insists he can “guarantee” the Irishman won’t be sacked. Following Smith by announcing he will step down in the future could similarly backfire. So the only part the fans can play is stop making him a distraction for the players.