Falkirk boss Hartley “I’ll miss Alex Smith”

Paul Hartley and Alex Smith have known one another for more than 20 years. Picture Michael Gillen.
Paul Hartley and Alex Smith have known one another for more than 20 years. Picture Michael Gillen.

Paul Hartley isn’t sure if he’ll still be going in management when he’s Alex Smith’s age.

The Scottish football legend announced his retirement this week, and will leave Hartley’s Falkirk at the end of the season for a new life in Australia.

Smith has been a support to Hartley at Falkirk. Picture Michael Gillen.

Smith has been a support to Hartley at Falkirk. Picture Michael Gillen.

At 78 it brings an end to a 60-year career in football, with all but a decade spent in management.

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Smith says he sees something of himself in Hartley, and the Bairns boss admits they share a love of the game.

“I still love the game, it’s in my blood too. Would I like to be involved at 78? I’m not so sure. It’s difficult enough these days keeping a job for a couple of years the way football has changed.

Smith helped Hartley take over and then stepped in again when Jimmy Nicholl moved on. Picture Michael Gillen.

Smith helped Hartley take over and then stepped in again when Jimmy Nicholl moved on. Picture Michael Gillen.

“You’d think at his age he’d be taking it easy - but he has a love of the game.

“He’s here every day, he was with the under-20s in Forfar this week and then in for training. If there’s something he sees at a game, he tells us and he’s in at half-time and full-time. But the important thing is, he has the respect of everybody.”

He certainly has Hartley’s respect. Smith was very much a part of the new regime when the Bairns boss took over the role in October – and stepped in again when Jimmy Nicholl moved to Rangers in January.

“He’s a legend of the Scottish game but he’s been a real help to myself.

“We had a tough period when we came here and he was someone I relied heavily on and in that period when Jimmy Nicholl left we were working together for those four or five weeks very closely. I have huge amount of respect for him and I’ve always given him his place here. I always said he’d have a role in my structure.

“I’ve always found experienced managers and coaches better to deal with. I’ve always liked working with experienced guys. I know there are younger guys coming through but I feel for myself working with Alex, Jimmy Nicholl or in the past Gerry McCabe, and now Gordon Young, they’ve all got vast experience.

“People say the guys in their 50s, 60s, 70s are dinosaurs. I don’t see it like that. They’re people I can learn from.

“He’s sharp as a tack and a man who loves football. He’s someone I’ll miss and someone the whole game will miss. He’ll sit for hours talking about football and his knowledge is still second to none. He never misses a training session and I’ll miss him.”