Walter Smith makes a point to Steven Naismith during their time at Rangers

Naismith won three league titles with Rangers while Walter Smith was manager for a second time

Walter Smith would be the “safest bet” on the Scottish FA’s long-list for national team manager, says Hearts and Scotland striker Steven Naismith.

The former Rangers and Everton boss, 69, is the favourite among up to eight names being considered by the SFA to succeed Gordon Strachan.

Performance director Malky Mackay, in charge for the November friendly defeat by Netherlands, is also in the frame.

“Walter is the safest of the names bandied about,” said Naismith.

“From personal experience, he is a fantastic man-manager, probably the best I have ever worked with in that regard.

“I have not heard many players saying anything bad about him, even if they were not playing. They respect him. He is the type of manager who, when he walks into a room, he has got that presence.

“He has been there and done it, he knows what it is about. If he is in the running, I think it would be a good choice for the SFA.”

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Naismith, 31, won the first of his 45 caps in 2007 as Smith was nearing the end of his three-year spell in charge of Scotland. He then worked under Smith at Rangers when he left the national post to return to Ibrox.

“The biggest attribute for any international manager is man management,” Naismith told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound.

“You don’t have time to put in a system that is too complex. The man management in getting everyone on board, pushing in the same direction, is the thing that is going to get you to a major tournament.

“Where we are at the moment, I think you need an experienced head who can guide a squad which, in my eyes, is not far away. There are maybe one or two positions where we are a bit lighter than you would like in terms of competition for places.

“But everywhere else we have a squad of guys coming into their mid-20s, who have had exposure in Europe – the Celtic boys like Stuart Armstrong, Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor and James Forrest – and the Premier League, like [Bournemouth’s] Ryan Fraser and the top level in Scotland, like [Hibernian’s] John McGinn.

“These are the guys who could lead the squad going into the next tournament, if the choice [of manager] is right. The easiest and safest bet is someone with a bit of experience who can instil confidence in the players over a short period of time, every couple of months.”

‘Walter has the knowledge, the experience, the record’

Smith’s credentials for a return to the national job were also endorsed by Aberdeen assistant manager Tony Docherty, who was part of Strachan’s Scotland backroom team.

“I am a huge fan of Walter Smith,” Docherty told Sportsound. “He is a players’ manager. He commands huge respect from a dressing room and has had enormous success in the game.

Tony Docherty shouts out instructions during Scotland's friendly with Canada, in between Gordon Strachan and Mark McGhee

Tony Docherty (centre) was part of Gordon Strachan’s backroom team, along with Mark McGhee

“We are looking to qualify for the next [European] Championships. If he is available and putting his name forward, I think it would be remiss to pass up that opportunity with someone of his standing in the game, who could lead us forward.

“Walter has the knowledge, the experience, the record. He has been a coach for most of his life, he has worked under Jim McLean, Graeme Souness, Jock Stein.”

Docherty does not believe the fact Smith has not had a managerial role for seven years is necessarily a problem.

“It is in his bones and in his blood,” he added. “A good manager is a good manager. Sir Alex Ferguson talks about how he adapted his style to the modern-day player, and Walter has got all that. He is hugely popular with all the players he has worked with.

“It doesn’t matter how long you have been away from it. You would pick up on it again. He has that presence, commands that respect and it goes a long way.

“You are not with the Scotland squad every day. As I saw with Gordon Strachan, that presence gets so much out of the players. I think if that is something you have got, you use it.”

Scotland’s next matches are friendlies against Costa Rica on 23 March and Hungary on 27 March.

News Reporter

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