JIM Smith was a brilliant manager on and off the field who will forever be remembered for his stunning achievements at Oxford United.

He was the man two of the club’s other biggest names, Malcolm Shotton and Ron Atkinson, revered and the pair were quick to pay tribute after the Bald Eagle died, aged 79, on Tuesday.

Smith’s career was littered with honours, but his most impressive spell came during a three-year period at the Manor Ground from 1982.

Under his guidance the U’s soared to win back-to-back titles, going from third tier also-rans to the top flight.

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Shotton was the captain of that turbo-charged team and hailed Smith’s role in the success.

“As a manager he was second to none,” the former centre back said. “His man management was top class.

“He could dish out a rollocking and get in your face, but he knew how to get his point over and was also very good at putting his arm around players and getting the best out of people.

“He was very good at getting people together, even the players’ wives and staff to make sure everyone was pulling in the same direction.

“Off the field he was a phenomenal guy, you could talk to him about anything.

“I was lucky enough to become a friend of his off the pitch. He was always there to help or lend an ear.

“He’s going to be a huge loss.

“He’s a true legend, especially at our club. He’s the legend of all legends.”

Atkinson, United’s record appearance maker, was a contemporary of Smith’s as they moved into management, forming a close bond when they were in charge of West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City respectively in the early 1980s.

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That link ultimately led to Atkinson, who takes credit for the ‘Bald Eagle’ nickname, having a hand in his friend’s move to United.

He said: “Me and Jim had a night out and Paul Reeves, who was a director at Oxford, was also there.

“About a week later Jim called to say he’d been sacked by Birmingham.

“Paul rang a few minutes later, not knowing about the news, and he said ‘I wouldn’t mind getting Jim at our place’.

“I said ‘you could get him’. Jim was reluctant at first, but I said honestly, it’s a great club and he did a magnificent job.”

Smith rebuilt the team with a host of low-profile signings who would go on to become household names.

Shotton said: “Jim could spot a player and he knew what he wanted.

“Look at Aldo (John Aldridge), he came for £70,000 from Newport County and all of a sudden he was banging in goals.”

Atkinson knows all-too well how good that United team became.

As a third tier club they stunned his Manchester United side in an epic Milk Cup fourth round tie, emerging on top after three matches in December 1983.

Atkinson said: “After the second replay I went with him to a restaurant in Woodstock and he hammered me for the next three or four hours.

“Socially he was great, but he was a top football man as well.

“He played hard but worked very hard as well.

“You don’t get characters like him now.”