DICK ADVOCAAT became only the tenth manager in the history of Rangers when he succeeded Walter Smith on June 1, 1998.
The former PSV Eindhoven boss arrived with a fearsome reputation. He knew that he would be losing many of the Rangers legends that had graced the Ibrox turf during nine-in-a-row and immediately set about creating his own squad of players.
In total, 15 players from the Smith era were to leave the club during Advocaat’s first season in charge so it was imperative that the new manager made several signings of his own.
His trusted skipper at PSV, Arthur Numan, joined the club along with fellow Dutchman Giovanni Van Bronckorst. Former Manchester United and Everton winger Andrei Kanchelskis also signed along with keeper Lionel Chabonnier, striker Rod Wallace and Argentinian striker Gabriel Amato.
Colin Hendry also came in to join the backlne and formed a great partnership with Lorenzo Amoruso in a fantastic first season for Advocaat.
The immediate transformation in the squad under Advocaat can be seen in the Ibrox side’s line-up on the last day of Smith’s era and the first domestic game of the Dutchman’s reign.
Smith’s team on Scottish Cup Final day on May 16 1998 read: Goram; Porrini, Amoruso, Gough, Bjorkland, Stensaas; Gattuso, I. Ferguson, McCall; Durie, Laudrup.
Advocaat’s starting eleven against Hearts in the SPL on August 2, 1998 was Niemi: Gattuso, Porrini, Moore, Numan; Thern, I. Ferguson, van Bronckhorst, Albertz; Durie, Wallace.
To say that Dick’s first few games in charge were nail-biting would be an understatement. His new-look Rangers team had to travel to Tranmere to take on Shelbourne in an UEFA Cup qualifier and, unbelievably, went three goals behind, leaving the Gers support stunned.
The Ibrox faithful had seen some poor European results in recent times but a debut defeat at the hands of the Irish part-timers would have been a truly catastrophic start to the new manager’s reign.
Advocaat introduced new-boy Gabriel Amato and Finn Jonatan Johansson and this sparked the team in to life. In what proved to be a frantic second half, goals from Albertz (2), van Bronckhorst and Amato (2) gave the team a comfortable 5-2 advantage to take back to Ibrox, much to the relief of every Light Blue supporter.
During his first season at the helm, Advocaat continued to bring in new players to the club such as Neil McCann, French World Cup winner Stephane Guivarc’h, German keeper Stefan Klos and American Claudio Reyna. In total he would spend £36.5m rebuilding his squad in his first year but the club would instantly reap the rewards.
Although Rangers were to go out of the UEFA Cup in the third round against Italian giants Parma, the Little General led the team to a remarkable domestic treble. This was no mean feat considering players like Ian Durrant, Ally McCoist, Richard Gough, Brian Laudrup, Andy Goram and Stuart McCall had all left the club.
Advocaat managed to get his hands on his first piece of silverware when Rangers beat St. Johnstone 2-1 in the Coca-Cola Cup Final at Hampden thanks to goals from Guivarc’h and Albertz.
The Dutchman then led the team to Celtic Park to clinch his first SPL title on May 2 1999 and two goals from Neil McCann and a penalty from Jorg Albertz sealed the victory in front of 7,000 joyous away supporters.
The treble was then completed when Rangers again beat their Old Firm rivals 1-0 in the Scottish Cup final thanks to a 49th minute goal from Rod Wallace.
Following the triumphant treble no fewer than eight players would leave the club the following season including Guivarc’h to Auxerre, Amato to Gremio and Colin Hendry to Coventry.
Advocaat again dipped in to the transfer market in time for the start of the following season and immediately snapped up defender Dariuz Adamczuk and Dutch striker Michael Mols. Billy Dodds and Turkish playmaker Tugay would also be brought in throughout the course of the season.
Success under Advocaat continued and the Gers secured a domestic double in season 1999/00 beating Celtic to the title by a record 21 points and crushing Aberdeen 4-0 in the Scottish Cup Final.
However, Martin O’Neill arrived at Parkhead the following season and halted Rangers’ dominance.
Advocaat signed Dutch Internationalists Ronald de Boer, Bert Konterman and Fernando Ricksen for the 2000/01 season along with strikers Peter Lovenkrands and Kenny Miller.
These signings, however, were overshadowed by the £12m spent on Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo in November 2000, a Scottish record transfers fee that is unlikely to ever be matched in football’s current climate.
However, even with these big name signings, Celtic went on to win a domestic treble although Rangers had a great chance to progress past the group stages of the Champions League after being drawn to face Bayern Munich, Galatasaray, and Sturm Graz.
The Light Blues got off to a flyer by beating Austrian side Sturm Graz 5-0 at Ibrox and then travelled to the south of France to record a memorable 1-0 victory against Monaco thanks to a 30-yard strike from van Bronckhorst.
Advocaat’s side were then beaten 3-2 at Galatasay’s famous Ali Sami Yen Stadium and could only draw 0-0 at home against the Turkish side. Things went from bad to worse when the Gers were then beaten 2-0 by Graz in Austria.
Rangers still had a slim chance of qualifying from the group if they could have beaten Monaco but Advocaat’s side agonisingly lost a late equaliser, scored by Marco Simone, when they had been leading 2-1 with goals from Miller and Mols.
The disappointment in not qualifying from the Champions League group stages and Celtic winning the domestic treble meant that Advocaat found himself under severe pressure.
Struggling in the league the next season, Advocaat announced he was quitting after a penalty shoot-out win over Paris Saint-Germain gave Ranger post-Christmas European football
The Dutchman would stay on as Director of Football and was instrumental in the appointment of Alex McLeish in December 2001, but Dick’s legacy is the creation of Murray Park which opened on July 2001.