Derby County Football Club has this evening regretfully been informed of the passing of its former manager Jim Smith at the age of 79.

Smith wrote his name into the Rams’ history books as he memorably masterminded the club’s promotion to the top-flight from the First Division in the 1995/96 campaign.

In his first full season in the hotseat, Derby gained automatic promotion back to the Premier League.

Smith also oversaw Derby’s transition from the Baseball Ground to Pride Park Stadium in 1997 during what was one of the most significant periods in club’s history.

He was also responsible for the signing of some true Derby County greats such as Igor Stimac, Paulo Wanchope, Mart Poom, Stefano Eranio and several other exciting acquisitions as the Rams impressed on their return to the big time.

Smith’s playing career began in his hometown of Sheffield at Sheffield United and he went on to play for Aldershot, Halifax Town, Lincoln City, Boston United and Colchester United.

His spells at Boston and Colchester saw him operate as player-manager before he moved into management outright at Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City, Oxford United, Queens Park Rangers, Newcastle United and Portsmouth before taking charge at Derby in the summer of 1995.

He achieved promotion to the top-flight in his first season as Derby’s boss and the 1996/97 campaign, which was the Rams’ last at the Baseball Ground, saw them preserve their top-flight status.

Under Smith, the Rams went on to finish 9th, 8th, 16th and 17th in the Premier League before he parted company with the club in October 2001.

In total, Smith took charge of 281 Derby matches and recorded 99 victories and 81 draws.

He went on to have spells at Coventry City, Portsmouth and Southampton as assistant manager and returned to management at Oxford in 2006. After stepping down in 2007, he had another brief spell as caretaker manager in 2008 and was also given a seat on the Board of Directors.

Smith was one of football's most respected and well-liked personalities and also worked closely with the League Manager’s Association. He was inducted into their Hall of Fame - 1,000 Club, recognising his outstanding career in management.

He amassed well over 1,000 games as a manager and will forever hold a special place in the history of Derby County Football Club.

The condolences of everyone at the Derby County go out to Jim Smith’s family and friends at this difficult time.

Rest in peace, Jim.