THE football world has come together to pay tribute to former Oxford United manager Jim Smith.

The legendary ex-U’s boss, who has died aged 79, won back-to-back titles to take United from Division 3 to the top tier in the 1980s.

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Smith was hugely respected following a management career of almost 40 years.

Ron Atkinson, himself a United legend, told the Oxford Mail’s special magazine celebrating the club’s 125th anniversary last year: “Jim was a very good judge of players. Everyone knows he was a great character and worked very, very hard.

“The art of management is to get the maximum out of your players and he could get that.

“He was sometimes a little bit unorthodox but just great company. Nobody can run him close. He is an absolute legend.

Read also: Jim Smith's Oxford United career in pictures

Former U's players have also shared their thoughts.

Alex Jeannin, who played under Smith in his second spell, said: "Devastated to hear the sad news about Jim Smith.

"With any doubt one of the best manager I had in my career. What a lovely guy he was. RIP Jim."

Ex-defender Christophe Remy said: "Sad to hear of Jim Smith's passing: it was thanks to him that I was able to play in England, first on trial at Derby County FC, before signing two seasons for Oxford United FC. RIP RIP."

Smith is also remembered fondly for spells at a host of clubs including Queens Park Rangers, Portsmouth and Derby County.

League Managers Association (LMA) chairman Howard Wilkinson said: “Jim and I have known each other since our teenage years, and I have been in his debt since the day he asked me to become player-coach at Boston United where I served my apprenticeship.

“I have so many fond memories of Jim as a football manager but foremost as a friend.

“He was intelligent, passionate, determined, honest and always great fun to be with. Never one to mince his words, he was a leader in the truest sense.

“He was liked and admired by everyone around him, truly an authentic, down-to-earth gentleman.

“Above all, he was a great husband and father.”

LMA Chief Executive Richard Bevan added: “Jim was a true friend to the LMA and will be very sorely missed by his colleagues and friends.

"He was an inspiration to so many people throughout his career and a highly valued member of the LMA Hall of Fame - 1,000 Club in recognition of his contribution, achievement and legacy to the game.

“When Jim was approached by the LMA to become the association’s chief executive in 1995, he gladly accepted the responsibility, only relinquishing the position to return to management with Derby County.

“Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with his wife Yvonne and all his family and friends.”

Smith won promotions with Colchester United and Birmingham City before arriving at the Manor Ground in 1985 and continued to enjoy success after leaving United three years later.

He was famously in the opposition dugout when the U's beat Queens Park Rangers 3-0 in the 1986 Milk Cup final.

Smith reached the 1992 FA Cup semi final with Portsmouth and just missed out on promotion to the top flight, but guided Derby County to the Premier League in 1996.

Several players and managers, past and present, have also paid their respects.