'Big Man' Walter Gerrard, former professional footballer, dies aged 70
The former Hong Kong Rangers star was one of the pioneers of professional football in the city
Chinese fans called him the "Water Buffalo" because of his enormous frame, everyone else just called him the "Big Man". Walter Gerrard, a pioneer of professional football in Hong Kong, died on Sunday morning in Queen Mary Hospital after his health deteriorated.
Legends are not born, they have to earn that title, and Walter carried that distinction in spades. He loved Hong Kong, the people and the opportunity it gave him in life and most importantly, it was where he met his wife, Barbara, and raised their two boys, Andrew and Stuart.
Walter, who celebrated his 70th birthday last November, was born in Glasgow and never lost his accent - he cultivated it and was very proud to do so. He arrived in Hong Kong on September 10, 1970, along with myself and Jackie Trainer. We were the first three British professional footballers in Asia.
Walter arrived to play for Hong Kong Rangers, having previously played for Berwick Rangers. He was on the bench when they pulled off the shock of the century in Scottish football as the little Gers beat Glasgow Rangers 1-0 in 1967 and dumped them out of the Scottish Cup in the first round.
Walter played in the next round against Hibs in front of 30,000 people and unluckily lost by a solitary goal.
In his first season with Rangers in Hong Kong, he notched 30 goals, helped them win the league and the Senior Shield.
As a centre forward his heading ability was second to none and he could knock a ball from his head 10, 20 or 30 metres to a teammate's feet.
Walter joined Seiko in 1972 and his success continued. He had spells with Caroline Hill before returning to champions Seiko as assistant coach.
Had it not been for his hard work to light the way, the city might not have seen the glory days and countless professionals who followed in his footsteps.
There were many countless stories when the Big Man was around, but the one I loved the best was when he played against Brazilian club Santos.
Late in the game there were two substitutions, Santos substituted the great Pele at the same time as Gerrard was substituted by Caroline Hill.
As they walked off the field, Walter put his arm around Pele and said: "Pele, these coaches don't know a good footballer when they see one." Priceless.
When Walter retired, he became involved in the wines and spirits industry where he became very successful, latterly with Fine Vintage Wines. He achieved all that from hard work, honesty and the network he had built up over the years.
But if truth be told, everybody loved the character he was. A good singer, he could entertain at the drop of a hat.
He touched a lot of people's lives in Hong Kong. You name it, Walter did it, including cameo roles in Chinese movies and training the Hong Kong Football Club rugby team. Larger than life, he crossed paths with many sportsman.
It is a good Scottish tradition to honour the memory of a good man rather than to mourn his passing and Walter gave many countless memories.
Derek Currie was a professional player in Hong Kong