Jim Smith and Harry Redknapp on the sidelines at Portsmouth.

Jim Smith (left) was assistant to Harry Redknapp when Portsmouth won the second-tier title in 2002-03

Former Portsmouth and Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has described Jim Smith, who died at the age of 79 on Tuesday, as a “great football man”.

Smith managed nine English clubs, including spells at Derby County, Oxford United and Portsmouth, over the course of a 38-year career.

“Jim was special. Anyone who ever came into contact with him loved him,” Redknapp, 72, told BBC South Today.

“He was a great character, a great football man and great fun to be with.”

Smith managed Pompey between 1991 and 1995, but returned to Fratton Park as assistant to Redknapp in 2002, helping the club to win promotion to the Premier League the following year.

“When I went to Portsmouth for my first spell there, we were in the Championship and my first signing was Jim,” Redknapp added.

“I was a little bit embarrassed asking him to be my assistant, when he had been around at the top level.

“He had great knowledge of the game, knew players and was great for me. We went there and it took off from day one. It was an amazing journey,

“He’ll be sadly missed.”

A ‘larger-than-life’ character

Among Smith’s career highlights were a League Cup final appearance with Queens Park Rangers in 1986 and promotion to the Premier League with Derby in 1996, going on to keep the Rams in the top flight for five seasons until his departure in 2001.

He was a master of promotions, helping Colchester United and Birmingham City to climb divisions before transforming Oxford into a top-flight side by leading them to successive Third and Second Division titles in the mid-1980s.

Former England left-back Chris Powell, who played under Smith in the Premier League at Derby, tweeted his tribute to his former manager.

Another member of that Rams side, Croatia international Igor Stimac, said playing for Smith, known throughout football as the ‘Bald Eagle’, was “wonderful”.

“I had three wonderful years and still have memories of many games – beating Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham playing great football,” the 52-year-old former defender told Rams TV.

“Jim will always stay in my special part of collection from football.

“Jim knew exactly what it takes and how to push players forward.”

Long-serving Portsmouth goalkeeper Alan Knight, who played for the club from 1978 to 2000, described Smith as “a larger-than-life character”.

“He was great fun to be around and fun to work for,” Knight, 58, said.

“He was a footballing man, but a man with humility. He was fantastic with the supporters.

“Jim was a special character and I don’t think football will see one like him again.”

Tributes planned by former clubs

Smith’s former clubs are planning tributes in the coming week.

Derby will hold a minute’s applause before Wednesday’s game against Sheffield Wednesday, the team Smith supported as a boy – with a full tribute planned for Saturday, when the Rams host Millwall at Pride Park.

QPR will wear black armbands for their Championship match at Birmingham on Wednesday, while Oxford United are due to hold their tribute before their Carabao Cup quarter-final tie against Manchester City next week.

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