T HE word legend is used too often these days but, in the case of Sandy Jardine, there was no more fitting description.

His death last night has rocked Scottish football, with tributes from all corners of the game flooding in for one of our all-time greats.

He leaves behind a wife, two children and grandchildren but a wider family will join them in mourning.

Supporters of Rangers, Hearts and Scotland were each recalling their favourite memories of a man that enjoyed a hugely distinguished career on the field and was admired and respected off it.

Jardine devoted five decades to Rangers, winning three League Championships, five Scottish Cups, five League Cups and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972 in Light Blue and cementing his place as one of the finest players to climb the marble staircase.

To the generation that saw him star on the park, he was a hero and a truly gifted footballer, but Jardine's legacy lives on with a more modern era of supporter.

During Rangers' darkest days two years ago, he would become the figure for thousands of fans to rally behind in the club's hour of need.

He was everything a Ranger should be, conducting himself with the dignity and class expected of an ambassador of the club, and while his life has been cut short, his legacy and his memory will live on.

"There have been many great names associated with Rangers Football Club in our 142-year history and Sandy is a Rangers legend in every sense of the word," manager Ally McCoist said.

"We are all devastated by the news he has passed away. We have lost a great man today.

"I had the privilege of watching Sandy playing for Rangers when I was a young boy. I had enjoyed the pleasure of working with him closely since I returned to the Club in 2007, and he was a truly remarkable human being.

"His achievements both on and off the pitch are second to none and I was honoured to regard him as a friend. He gave everything for this great club and worked tirelessly in a number of roles because he wanted to ensure the traditions, ­history and standards at Rangers were maintained.

"He was respected not only by Rangers fans but also the wider football community and he is a huge loss to the game. We will never see his like again in the modern era.

"He recently told me he was proud to be a Ranger and wanted to be remembered forever as a Ranger. Well Sandy, you will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time and we will miss you terribly.

"It is a very sad day for everyone associated with Rangers and our thoughts are with his wife Shona, his children Steven and Nicola, his grandchildren and the rest of his family."

The tributes that poured in for Jardine in hours after his passing was announced by Rangers last night showed not only the depth of feeling the Light Blue legions had for him but the respect he earned from all within the game.

His battle with cancer limited the latter stages of his life but he remained in the thoughts of Rangers fans, who chanted his name and marked the second minute of matches last season with a round of applause in his honour.

He returned to Ibrox at the start of the League One ­campaign to unfurl the Third Division flag and once again take the terraces' acclaim. There have been few louder and more emotional roars.

IT WAS a moment to cherish for everyone present and, for many, the last time they would see a man who made almost 800 appearances for Rangers and score 77 goals during a distinguished Light Blues career.

"Sandy Jardine epitomised everything that is good about Rangers Football Club," chief executive Graham Wallace said. "He was a man of principle and class and his contribution during his career both on and off the pitch was truly remarkable.

"He was a credit to the club and in my meetings with him his dignity, class and love for Rangers shone through.

It was, of course, not just in the famous blue of Rangers that Jardine was a hero.

Few born on these shores can claim to be one of the world's best but Jardine belonged with the greats of the game at his elegant, powerful peak.

He was a stalwart for Scotland, for whom he made 38 appearances, captaining his country nine times, and would form one of the most famous defensive pairings in the history of our game with Celtic legend Danny McGrain.

Jardine may have been in the latter stages of his career when he left Ibrox in 1982 but still had plenty to give after he joined former Ibrox team-mate Alex MacDonald at Hearts.

It was testament to his skill and professionalism that, at the age of 37, he was named the Scottish Football Writers Association Player of the Year.

There were few like Jardine before him and there have been few since. A legend of the game may have left us but the name Sandy Jardine will live on.