COLCHESTER United record-appearance holder Micky Cook has paid a glowing tribute to his ‘larger than life’ former manager Jim Smith, who has died at the age of 79.

The football world has been paying its respects to Smith, who managed the U's between October 1972 and June 1975.

Smith, known fondly as the Bald Eagle, led the U's to promotion to division three in his first full season at the helm after taking over from Dick Graham in the Layer Road hot seat.

He was also in charge the last time Colchester made it through to the League Cup quarter-finals prior to the curren campaign, in the 1974-75 season.

Cook was a key part of Smith’s impressive U’s side that won promotion in the 1973-74 season and says he was a great manager to play for.

Cook said: “I’m so sad to hear the news.

“Jimmy was a larger than life guy and made an impact wherever he went.

“He was such a character in the game.

“Jimmy followed Dick Graham, as Colchester manager.

“Dick was a hard task master and although Jimmy had similar qualities, he also had different methods.

“Like Dick, he had a grasp of various different man management skills.

“He made sure there was discipline involved but as a player, you wanted to play for him and that’s a skill in itself.

“He liked a laugh and a joke but he was also serious about his football and he was a fierce competitor.

“He was totally focused but once the football was put aside, he found time for a laugh and a joke.

“He was a lovely guy and a big family man – it’s a sad loss and my thoughts are with Jimmy’s lovely family.”

Smith took over as Colchester manager in October 1972 after arriving from Boston United.

One of his first actions was to snap up prolific striker Bobby Svarc from his old club Boston, for a fee of £6,000.

Smith made nine appearances as a player for the U’s but despite suffering the disappointment of re-election, led the club to promotion to division three in his first full season in charge at Layer Road.

Smith also led Colchester to the League Cup fifth round, where were beaten 2-1 by then division two side Aston Villa in the 1974-75 season before leaving to take over at Blackburn Rovers, in June 1975.

“We had some very good times in those days and it was quite an eventful time,” added Cook, who made nearly 700 league and cup appearances for Colchester between 1969 and 1984.

“I think it might well have been under Jimmy that I paired up with Phil Thomas in midfield.

“We had a bit of pace going forward but also had time for the defensive side of the job and Jimmy had a good tactical brain.”