THERE have been plenty of warm and fitting tributes to Walter Smith in the days since his death earlier this week, the best of them have come from those who revealed his human qualities as much as his greatness as a footballing man.

Take Mark Robertson's anecdote as an example: The year is 1997 and Robertson has just arrived at Ibrox fresh from Australia for a trial at the invitation of the then Rangers manager. Robertson, one of his country's brightest young talents at 17 is in demand. Chris Waddle, the Burnley manager, wants to sign him, so too does Dave Bassett at Nottingham Forest, but first there is a trial at Rangers for which Robertson turns up in the footballers customary garb of tracksuit and trainers.

“They were three big clubs, three big characters and [it was daunting] for a wide-eyed boy travelling from Australia. Rangers put me up in a beautiful hotel in Glasgow – the Moat House, I think. I had a driver who came to pick me up. I went into the reception at Ibrox and Walter was standing there. He introduced me to Ally McCoist, Paul Gascoigne, Ian Durrant, Gordon Durie, he called Craig Moore over. After our first session he took me into his office and said 'I'm not going to be disrespectful but we wear a shirt and tie to training here'. I thought 'hmm, I haven't seen any of the boys wearing a shirt and tie' and because the banter was flying around I thought 'is this a stitch-up?' But he reached into his pocket and took out his money and put it into an envelope. There was £1000 in it! He said 'I've organised a car, go and get yourself some clothes that you can wear tomorrow. The driver will show which shops to go to. Get a couple of shirts and ties, a jacket and some shoes.”

“The next day he called me over and told me to give him a spin. I think I might have been wearing something from Next and the boys just absolutely caned me but he never revealed that he gave me that money. I just thought that spoke volumes about the man – I don't know any other manager that would have done that. The way he treated me when I was there was unbelievable.”

In the end Robertson did not sign for Rangers – opting instead for Burnley – but he has never forgotten Smith for that small kindness.

He would eventually find his way back to Scotland with Dundee for whom he signed in 2001. There he found himself part of what was, for a time, one of modern Scottish football's most endearing stories. The Dark Blues were a patchwork quilt of nationalities and fielded storied names such as Fabrizio Ravanelli, Claudio Caniggia, Zurab Khizanisvilli, Temuri Ketsbaia, and Georgi Nemsadze.

“We had a game where there wasn't one Scotsman in the team. Gavin Rae and Barry Smith were out. I looked around and thought 'wow, this is unbelievable'. I came into what was a relatively foreign dressing room. The handful of Scottish boys – Gavin, Jamie Langfield, Lee Wilkie, Steven Milne – were just coming through but everybody made me feel great, except for the manager [Ivano Bonetti], he didn't speak great English and just called me 'Australia boy'. That went on for a month and I thought 'is he taking the piss?' and Gavin turned around to me and said don't worry Robbo, he doesn't even know my name. But my time at Dundee was blessed by playing with great footballers, it was sad how it came to an end when they went into administration.”

Before those dark days, Robertson flew the standard for Australia with pride and was part of squads that finished in the top six each season and spoiled Celtic's title party in 2001 with a 2-0 victory when Fabian Caballero scored twice at Parkhead; he was also on the bench when Dundee won by the same scoreline at Ibrox.

“Whether we went to Rangers or Celtic we didn't fear that. We played teams off the park and had a little bit of bite. We turned Celtic over 2-0 with 10-men when Zura got sent off in the first 10 minutes. It was a hot day in April, 62,000 people, but we still had confidence that we would attack. Celtic had their shirts signed with 'we are the champions', they thought that they had the title won that day but we spoiled that. They had to put the shirts back in the bag and go to Inverness to lift the trophy.

“The one at Ibrox was interesting. I don't think I have ever copped as much abuse on the sideline as a substitute – maybe at Millwall. I was always desperate to get on against Rangers – that was my history, friends and family – both my mum and dad are from Edinburgh, my dad played for Dundee and Dunfermline and Gavin Rae is my brother in law.”

In his role as a scout for the City Group family, he keeps in regular contact with Scottish football and pays special attention to events at Parkhead. He gives a glowing assessment of Ange Postecoglou, a coach he has known since his playing days in the A League.

“We've known each other for years. He was at Yokohama F Marinos which is part of our City Football Group. I was asked about Ange [before he went to Celtic] and I gave nothing but glowing recommendations. I thought if someone like him gets a chance at Celtic to play his brand of football it would be very successful for the club and for Ange himself. He did such a good job at Yokohama it was almost like 'if he can do it for City Football Group' he has already been involved in the big, corporate world of football. I don't know anyone in the world of football who has gone into a job without any of his own staff. He is a seriously brave man to do that.

“What I know of Ange, is that the players play for him almost before the football club. It is a unique skill to be able to do that; not many managers are capable of doing it. Some managers will lead with the stick and others with the carrot. Walter and Ange lead with the carrot, they want you to approach them, they want to talk to you, they want to be good humans first and football men second – and that's when you get the best out of people. You would be bang on in saying that Ange and Walter have similarities; players really want to play for them because of the people they are.”

Robertson was back in Dundee this week as a guest of his old club whereupon he took in the 5-0 thrashing by Ross County. He confesses he had a foot in both camps, with his 18-year-old son Alex – on a season-long loan in Dingwall from Manchester City – on the bench.

He says increasingly, City, and other clubs are seeing Scottish football as a place to give a physical edge to the talented youngsters in their stables.

“It isn't an easy league to play. My son has taken a leap. He's a youngster. These boys that do fly the nest from Manchester City, it's a brave move because it's a completely different brand of football. The modern footballer has so many different ingredients but if you are looking for him to pick up good workrate, high intensity, then why not play in the Scottish Premiership? There are so many pros that go with it.”

Postecoglou is not the only compatriot who has made an impression on him in recent days. He applauded the decision earlier this week by Adelaide United defender Josh Cavallo to come out as the first gay footballer currently playing.

“I don't know Josh but I reached out to him to say I am really pleased that you got the weight off your shoulders. Good on him, great, I love that he has gone and done that. I have a good friend, a footballer who came out once he retired but he is still trying to find his place in life and that was all to do with his sexuality. He really struggled with the whole process, he was in a dark place.

“If you do the maths on the population, Josh isn't alone, nor should he be alone, and there should be no discrimination on a human being on how they live their life.

“There's more to it than getting 30 million likes on Instagram. He's going to need support, not just for the first week but his whole career. Football can be cruel but so long as he has got the right people around him, other voices shouldn't matter to him.”