There will be thousands upon thousands of words written about Walter Smith and the impact he made in the days to come.

But for Scott Brown, none will come as close to summing up what the Ibrox legend was really all about as the image of him helping to carry his friend Tommy Burns’ coffin.

For three intense years during the mid-90s, the two found themselves at the sharp end of the Old Firm divide as Smith’s star-studded Rangers squad closed in on Nine In A Row.

Yet as the frenzy around Glasgow grew the closer the Light Blues got to equalling a feat first achieved by their great rivals, there was no sign of bitterness nor acrimony between the dug-outs.

It seems hard to believe in today’s fractious, social media-driven world, but throughout Gers’ historic chase for the nine, respect and dignity was maintained between Smith and his opposite number - even though it was the Rangers manager’s success which ultimately brought about Burns’ departure from his beloved Parkhead.

Glasgow Rangers manager Walter Smith outside St Mary's Church, Glasgow, following the funeral of Celtic legend Tommy Burns. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 20, 2008. Thousands of Celtic fans gathered at Parkhead today for the funeral of former player, manager and coach Tommy Burns. Family, friends and former colleagues remembered Burns at a noon service at St Mary's Church in Calton, where he was brought up. About a mile away, thousands of fans gathered outside Celtic Park where the ceremony was broadcast on giant speakers. Tributes have poured in since Burns lost his battle against skin cancer early last Thursday morning. See PA story FUNERAL Burns. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

That regard was demonstrated when Smith - newly appointed to the Scotland job in 2005 - invited Burns to join his back-room team as he put on a show of national unity.

And it was writ large again three years later following Burns’ tragic passing at the age of 51.

Former Hoops skipper Brown experienced plenty when it comes to the dark side of Glasgow’s footballing duopoly.

But that is why he took so much hope from the image of Smith - joined by fellow Ibrox icon Ally McCoist - standing shoulder to shoulder with Celtic legends Danny McGrain, Peter Grant, Pat Bonnar and George McCluskey to carry Burns on his final journey following his death in May 2008.

Brown - who will be at Ibrox tonight to pay his respects when Aberdeen face Steven Gerrard’s side - said: “I’ve got great respect for the man

“I remember after Tommy passed away, Walter and Ally helped carry the coffin. He was trying to be bigger than that divide.

“He was a man who was honest and who loved football.

“It was the most powerful message you could ever send.

“You knew how much Tommy loved Celtic and how much Walter loved Rangers.

“But as soon as they went away from that, they spent a lot of time with one another and so did their families.

“They had a fantastic bond and they tried to bridge that divide. Walter was that kind of person who wanted better for everyone.

“You understand that there is a hatred for 90 minutes, it is part and parcel, but you can’t hold a grudge after that.

“That image is the most powerful message that has ever been sent out. You talk about bridging the divide but that picture speaks a thousand words.”

Brown was still sporting his red mohawk when Smith handed the then Hibernian buzzbomb midfielder his first cap for the national team in November 2005.

Scott Brown makes his Scotland debut in November 2005

He has spent the years since then drifting further and further back the pitch but the night at Hampden in a friendly clash with Bruce Arena’s visiting Americans, Brown was chucked on up front for the final 17 minutes with instructions to wreak havoc.

The bold plan almost paid off as Brown came within a fraction of a debut goal and a slap on the back from his new gaffer back in the dressing room.

But the 36-year-old recalls fearing an altogether different reaction when he turned down a move to Ibrox 18 months later.

“Everyone knows I had the chance to go to Rangers - but I chose Celtic,” he said. “At the time, I thought maybe Walter and Coisty would hold a grudge.

“But they never once did. I met Walter a couple of months later out on the street and he was fantastic. He couldn’t have been any more pleased for myself.

“At that same time, I had him at Scotland and it was Walter, Tommy and Coisty. It was a great place to be. They made it very welcoming for everybody.

“That was down to the special bond the three of them had.

“I remember getting my first call up and I was a bit shocked. I was quite young at the time. We were playing America at home.

“I remember going out to warm up. Walter came up to me and said, ‘Right come on wee man, go warm up, let’s see what you’ve got’.

“So after I warmed up I came back and he goes, ‘Good news for you, you’re going on up front!’

“He told me, ‘Go cause carnage!’

Walter Smith with his Scotland assistant Ally McCoist and Tommy Burns

“I was like, ‘I can do that gaffer, no problem!’

“He was like, ‘Go get yourself a goal and show what you can do’.

“I think it was Faddy who dropped in and gave me a ball in behind and I scored into Kasey Keller.

“To be fair it was touch tight whether I was offside or not. VAR would have said I was on these days but back then the linesman called me off.

“I walked back in and Walter goes, ‘Told you wee man you’d score. Just too early but we’ll work on it!’”

“Everyone has got huge respect for Walter. Every single player that has worked under him says that.

“I know Kevin Thompson really well and he says he was a fantastic person and a great manager - probably the best he had.

“He had the aura that you knew he was in the room.

“I have been at a lot of charity events and when Walter walked in you knew he was in because there was such a buzz about the place.

“He was so down to earth and would speak to anyone and had time for everyone which made him such a fantastic man.”