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Steven Gerrard lavishes praise on Walter Smith

:Headline: Steven Gerrard lavishes praise on Walter Smith:
Walter Smith will be absent when Rangers are awarded the Premiership trophy on Saturday as he continues to recuperate from surgery.
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Steven Gerrard has revealed his regret that Walter Smith will not be at Ibrox this weekend to witness Rangers' coronation ceremony.

The new kings of Scotland will finally get their hands on the Premiership trophy they have waited a decade for following Saturday's curtain-closer with Aberdeen.

But former boss Smith will be absent as he continues to recuperate from the surgery he underwent back in March.

The 73-year-old – who steered Rangers to 21 trophies over two stints in charge, including 10 league titles – has grown close with Gerrard since the former Liverpool skipper moved to Glasgow in 2018.

The current incumbent of the Ibrox hot-seat has turned to the former Scotland and Everton boss more than once for advice during his turbulent journey to transform the Light Blues back into a side capable of challenging for silverware.

And that is why he is determined to share a special moment with his "unofficial mentor" and the Premiership trophy once Smith is back on his feet.

"I've gone on record many times about how special he is, not just as a manager but as a man," said Gerrard, whose team now stand just 90 minutes away from completing an unbeaten league campaign.

"Unfortunately, he's been unwell of late and it's a shame because I would have liked to have had him in the stadium on Saturday and have shared a photograph with him – but that time will come.

"It will be a special moment for me because Walter has really gone out of his way for me so the very least I can do is to share that moment with him.

"Sadly, it won't be this weekend but I'll make it my business to make sure that I have a picture with Walter Smith, myself and that cup."

Smith was the man who steered Gers to nine-in-a-row before leading the club to another three-year era of domination following the failed Paul Le Guen experiment.

Gerrard, though, faced an altogether more daunting restoration project but has now finally secured the club's 55th title.

And there is little chance of complacency creeping in this summer.

"I'm sure after Saturday we'll have some time to reflect and analyse," he said. "It's been a magical season from my point of view. I'm really proud of the players and what they've given.

"But it never stops. Recruitment meetings have been going on now for some time.

“I'll make it my business to make sure that I have a picture with Walter Smith, myself and that cup”
- Steven Gerrard

"We've already put pieces in place like Jack Simpson and Scott Wright. We've managed to get them in early so they're ready for pre-season.

"We've got Nnamdi Ofoborh and Fashion Sakala coming in to join us, so we're well on our way in terms of trying to strengthen from a position of strength.

"For me, it's always about fixing the roof when the sun is shining rather than waiting for problems. There will be more still to be added and, come the end of June, when we get back together again, we'll be full of energy and ready to go again."

Gers leapt Wednesday's penultimate hurdle on the chase for an undefeated season with ease as they won 3-0 at Livingston.

Gerrard faced a left-back crisis with Borna Barisic injured and Calvin Bassey banned but midfield playmaker Joe Aribo filled the slot with aplomb.

Joe Aribo (right) had to cover in at left-back as Gers won at Livingston (Jane Barlow/PA)

"I thought he was faultless," said Gerrard. "We asked him to be solid, to win headers and tackles, to compete and get forward. Good players can't play anywhere all over the pitch – only top players can do that and Joe Aribo can play anywhere.

"All you need to say to him is: 'I need a favour from you, I need a turn' and he gave me that in abundance. He doesn't have an ego but he was outstanding – he can do anything on a football pitch. He's top.

"There is one more challenge left for the team to do but the signs leading into this game is that they are ready for Aberdeen."

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