Dundee United boss Micky Mellon has revealed how managerial mentor Walter Smith taught him to be his own man.
Smith learned the coaching ropes as the great Jim McLean’s assistant at Tannadice before going on to lead Rangers, Everton and Scotland.
He is recovering in hospital following an operation and Mellon has sent his personal best wishes along with those of a club that Smith still holds dear.
As the current United gaffer prepared for Thursday’s launch of his new book, The First 100 Days: Lessons in Leadership from the Football Bosses, Mellon disclosed the pivotal role Smith has played in his career on the touchline.
He said: “When you become a manager you have a mentor.
“Walter Smith is my mentor and I have never said that to anybody before.
“He has been a massive help to me since I came back to Scotland.
“He is the person I will speak to about anything.
“As it says in the book, you must surround yourself with as many people who tell you the truth and you can rely on, good or bad, and also to bounce ideas around.
“I have a good selection of those people and Walter is one of them,” declared Mellon.
“I am very grateful for the relationship we have been able to build.
“I knew him before I came to Scotland because we have mutual friends.
“From the first day I came here to United he was the man I was able to phone any day and time of the week.”
‘Michael, I am not you’
What Mellon has been told by Smith to be true to himself. He should take tips and advice but not totally mimic other managers.
He said: “What Walter always comes back with is: ‘Michael, I am not you.’
“He will listen to me and then tell me about situations he has been in.
“It is more so at Everton, where Walter said he learned the most. When he came back to Rangers he said he went back as a much better manager.
“Walter is a football fanatic and I would come up from England for certain meals in Scotland and Walter would come up to me and tell me about my game.
“He had seen the result and knew how we were doing.
“He would never directly give you advice because he is such a gentleman.
“If you ask him anything, he always replies: ‘Michael, I am not you and you must remember that in management. You must be yourself.’
“Ask people what they have done and how they have dealt with things and then you do your own version of that…and go for it.
“It was one of the most invaluable bits of advice I have had in my career from such an unbelievable manager.”
Get well soon
Supportive messages have been pouring in for Smith, including from current Ibrox gaffer Steven Gerrard.
“I am sure he will get better very soon and we hope and pray it is as quickly as possible and he keeps recovering,” added Mellon.
Meanwhile, Mellon has praised Rangers defender Connor Goldson for speaking out about racism in the wake of the alleged abuse suffered by team-mate Glen Kamara during the Europa League match against Slavia Prague.
Goldson, who was managed by Mellon at Shrewsbury Town, talked about “token gestures” in football that weren’t, in his view, having any serious impact on the scourge.
United’s players decided to stand rather than kneel in solidarity with Kamara before they kicked off against Aberdeen at Tannadice on Saturday.
Mellon said: “I saw Connor’s interview before the Celtic game and thought it was important he spoke from the heart.
“He told everyone how this stuff makes guys like him feel and that’s what the message has got to be.
“We had been taking the knee but the players here felt that not enough is being done.
“So when you hear directly from the guys involved, people all over Scotland, they get affected like Connor told you.
“So to hear that, (players) still take the knee but it’s not stopping.
Time for change
“I hope that things change. Hopefully this shows things have to move forward. It is 2021 and it’s not acceptable.
“Let’s do something about it.”