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The Fall of The Evil Empire Part 3e – Dick Advocaat!

THE FALL OF THE EVIL EMPIRE

In the previous sections of Part 3 Gaudd looked at some of the dubious characters of Rangers FC from 1988 to the club’s demise in 2012.   Craig Whyte and David Murray did their part as Owners of Mass Destruction ( covered here ) , and Walter Smiths contribution was detailed  here .

Now we present : Dick Advocaat.

 

Dick Advocaat – The Little Genital


Crazy spending may have begun at Rangers during the dugout reign of Walter Smith, but it wasn’t until the arrival of Dick Advocaat that the increasingly fragile grasp on reality that David Murray had hitherto maintained finally decided to call it a day.    The catalyst for the descent into the land of white coats and men with large nets was of course Celtic’s league triumph of 1998, which shattered the illusion at Ibrox that winning the league was the sole right of Rangers and brought the club’s Ten In A Row dream to an ignominious end.   With Walter Smith having announced his intention to leave Rangers in the summer of 1998, David Murray cast around for a manager who would rub soothing balm onto the purple bruises adorning his brutalised ego.

Now a rational human being would accept that sometimes it’s the other guy’s day, but for David Murray all the days had to be his and his alone.  When speaking to a slavishly toadying James Traynor in November 1998,  Murray revealed the depths of his psychological insecurities to the fawning hack: “Neither am I willing to stand aside and allow another club to overtake Rangers. The failure of last season hurt me a lot and that pain was something I didn’t need nor want. It is also a pain which I never want to suffer again.” Murray may have envisaged Rangers winning the SPL title for eternity, but unfortunately for him reality took a rather different view. Still, Murray gave it his best shot even if it was with someone else’s money, and in June 1998 the diminutive form of the weave-headed Dick Advocaat arrived in Glasgow fresh from a successful stint with Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. What happened next is of course the stuff of legend.

In his first season in charge Advocaat splashed out an incredible £36m in transfer fees, sending Rangers wage bill soaring and causing fainting fits at the office of investors ENIC.   With only £7.6m being recouped from outgoing players, the net bill for Rangers was over £28m.  Such spending was utterly unheard of in Scotland, and at the time was even impressive for top EPL clubs with far greater resources than Rangers.   Domestic success duly followed, partly due it has to be said to yet more self-inflicted wounds at Celtic, but if David Murray thought that such huge team investment was going to ensure a European dividend he was sadly mistaken.  Advocaat’s first foray into Europe as Rangers manager came to a crushing end in the third round of the UEFA Cup at the hands of Italian club Parma.

Rangers fans enjoy Parma exit

Reasserting domestic dominance meant that Advocaat had already gained Messiah status with the Scottish mainstream media, with the lickspittle scribes gleefully taking up the Rangers fan’s nickname for Advocaat; The Little General – due apparently to his resemblance to Napoleon (who also crashed and burned after over extending himself). The spending he was allowed to enjoy was not viewed as some rash unsustainable binge by a money drunk lunatic, but rather a sign of omnipotent David Murray’s herculean embrace of the infallible Speculate to Accumulate strategy.  This viewpoint was further increased during season 1999-2000 when Celtic progressed from self-harm to full blown Body Integrity Identity Disorder.

Celtic’s history is a litany of boardroom incompetence which has been occasionally negated by skilful, strong-willed managers. In 1999 however with Fergus McCann off the scene, the stupidity duly went off the scale with the bizarre appointment of the “dream team” featuring Kenny Dalglish and rookie manager John “high risk” Barnes. Celtic quickly imploded both on and off the field leaving Advocaat with a clear toddle to another title, with Rangers luxuriating in the hysterical accolades of both their media and non-media supporters.  The 21 point gap at the end of the season did not reflect the difference between the two sides, which despite Rangers spending was marginal, but that did not stop the media taking their hysterical adulation of David Murray to whole level of infatuated grovelling.

With Advocaat now elevated to the ranks of the Greatest Heroes of All Time, the Daily Record informed a stunned readership that Rangers had three teams now; one to win the Champions League, one to dominate domestically and one to take David Murray’s pet Chihuahua, Tyson, for a walk.  Ken Gallagher at The Herald went one better and forecast a huge £100m windfall for Rangers, together with a Murray inspired blueprint for global domination.   It was a media free for all and Murray basked in the warm glow from all the positive attention like a purring lizard under a 200 watt bulb.  What didn’t receive so much attention was the fact that Advocaat’s spending was causing internal strife within Ibrox with ENIC now desperate to jump ship, the Bank of Scotland seeking ways to ensure they got their cash if it all went pear-shaped, and director Hugh Adam looking at the books and suffering fainting fits.

In season 1999-2000 Advocaat had spent approximately £7m after the binge of the previous season, however he was about to get back into his stride with a vengeance.  With the Dream Team departed, Celtic appointed the highly respected manager Martin O’Neill and began spending in a manner never before witnessed by the infamous Celtic Park biscuit tin.  Accepting the challenge, Murray threw off the restraining grasp of his horrified investors and threw blank cheques at a delighted Advoccat.  As £31m landed in the pockets of jubilant clubs all over Europe, Advocaat took his spending in three seasons to around £74m; far, far more than Walter Smith had managed to blow in 7 seasons. Net Rangers had coughed up approximately £52m, a staggering sum and one that was clearly unaffordable to all but the most determinedly blind.

Sadly for denizens of the Dark Side, Europe’s biggest money pots had again proven rather illusive during this manic spending spree.  In 1999 Rangers managed to get revenge of Parma by dumping them out of the Champions League qualifiers as Rangers progressed to the group stage.  Never a happy place though for the Bears and so it proved again with Rangers ending up in third place behind Bayern Munich and Valencia.  Any hope of European football after Christmas, through the consolation UEFA Cup ended at the first attempt after Advocaat’s stars lost on penalties in round three to Borussia Dortmund. The following season 3rd place in the group stage again saw Rangers faced with German opponents in the third round of the UEFA Cup, this time Kaiserslautern, with no need for penalties this time as the Bundesliga club chalked up a 3-1 aggregate win.  For once though Europe wasn’t the sole scene for catastrophic failure for Murray, Advocaat and Rangers.

 

As soon as the new season was underway, Martin O’Neill’s rejuvenated Celtic quickly demonstrated that all the lavish spending by Rangers had simply gone to build a team that would collapse like a house of cards at the first sign of real competition.  By the end of the campaign Celtic were run away victors with a 15 point gap at the top of the table, with the resulting delight heightened by the knowledge that Advocaat had pissed away £74m to achieve distant second place.  Murray had seemingly never understood that spending huge amounts did not guarantee a quality team, and throwing talented players together without rhyme or reason would not mean their talents were best utilised. A point proven the following season despite another £11.2m splashed out, Rangers were to finish 18 points behind Celtic, but by that time Advocaat was long gone.

In December 2001 with Celtic running away with the league by 12 points, Advocaat was “promoted” to the newly created post of General Manager, and his old job handed to Alex McLeish.  It was a sacking, and an obvious one ( see picture below), but Murray’s ego wouldn’t allow Rangers to appear like any other club. So the fiction was maintained that this was all a planned move and nothing to write home about.

Advocaat, secured in his lonely abode in a small garret room atop the half ruined west wing tower at Ibrox, probably read the newspapers and felt a bit puzzled about this unwanted elevation.  Rangers didn’t sack managers, except when it did and concocted half-baked nonsense about promotions to meaningless jobs.  Advocaat lingered around for a short while, turning up for work each day to play Solitaire on his laptop, before eventually taking the hint and leaving Rangers to join the Dutch national team in January 2002.

During his time at Ibrox The Little Genital managed to get through approximately £85m, not bad going for three and a half seasons. Without doubt Advocaat’s spending crippled Rangers financially, and attempts to mitigate the burden were to lead David Murray down a road that would turn a seriously bad financial situation into a catastrophe.   Unable to meet the wages of Advocaat’s hired help, Murray reached in desperation for the Employee Benefit Trust scam, allowing Rangers to avoid paying £millions in taxes and enabling the club to keeping bringing in players it could otherwise not afford.  It may have started off as a quick fix during Advocaat’s time at the club, but it was to become a mainstay of Rangers financial chicanery for the next decade. Yet Advocaat still appears to believe that his spending was no biggie.

In March 2012 with Rangers in administration, Advocaat was asked by a Press Association reporter if he might feel a bit, you know, guilty about anything. “My team became champions etc … etc …” said Advocaat, having been to the “etc” shop that morning. “In that way, the money was worth spending.”  And on blowing £12m alone on Tore Andre Flo?  “If you sell those players, you get more money back then you spend, that’s the way you have to think.” Well Flo went in the summer of 2002 to Sunderland for £6.5m, so maybe it’s understandable that Advocaat is in denial regarding his spending having helped Rangers into a welcome grave as maths clearly isn’t his strongpoint.  Advocaat like all the others who played a part in the demise of the club they once served, clearly believes it had nothing to do with him.

Coming Next Week : The Silence of the Lambs – The Rangers Board

 

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10 years ago

This is awesome stuff. Any chance of putting it together in like a downloadable .pdf at the end — you know where, Celtic Legend Georgious Samaras Rides off into the sunset with the pretty girl — so we can have it to chuckle over in future years?

elcormaco
10 years ago

Ha ha I d totally forgotten about Murray’s “continental management structure” or whatever pish the msm were give when the little Dick got his orange marching orders. Brilliant. I was proper hating being a celtic fan for a time round then. Clearly rangers were spending over the odds but we weren t spending anything. The came st.Martin six – two and the players rangers had spraffed their cash, sorry Bank of Scotland’s cash on shown up as diddy journeymen grasping for the big handfuls of tax free loot being given to them to get humped at Europe and at home. Great times, great article and revenge truly is a dish served cold, rangers folly has newco in sfl 3, celtic prudence mixing it in thr champions league. Hoopy days!

Frank McGaaaarvey
10 years ago

Brilliant! And to think that the messy legacy was/is all the fault of Craig Whyte, the SFA and Peter Lawell!

Ain’t nowt so blind as a deluded hun. Who remembers “We Deserve Better” as well?

10 years ago

I remember when Flo arrived – his contract was for £1 million net per year (£1.7 million gross?) – he has always insisted that it was up to rangers to deal with PAYE / tax etc. How many other players in the world would have been getting that kind of money in 1991? Stefan Klos was also reckoned to be teh 3rd highest paid player in the world when he was with rangers.
I reckon Flo was the “straw that broke the camels back”.

tam the tim
10 years ago

Murray’s ego was recognised when he failed to get control of Ayr United. When asked where Ayr would have been if he had control of the club he said at the top of the premier league. So the huns became this rich man’s plaything and look where it got them. He’s a rugby man anyway, knows nothing about football.

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