Advocaat an awkward guest at Celtic 'wake'

AZ ALKMAAR might not have been the obvious choice of guests to invite to what some have classed as a wake.

The Dutch club, founded just a fortnight before Celtic lifted the European Cup in 1967, are inoffensive enough. But it is the identity of their manager who is likely to cause some agitation among Celtic fans ahead of tonight's season-ticket holder-appeasing friendly at Parkhead.

It is easy to wonder how many Celtic fans will be attracted by the thought of watching their team play an inconsequential friendly at the end of one of the most dismal seasons in the club's recent history. But at least the presence of former Rangers manager Dick Advocaat will ensure there is a pantomime villain in the house.

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The game has been organised by Celtic because the club's season-ticket holders missed out on a Scottish Cup game from their books. "Jeez, thanks," might be the response of some. Their idea of fun does not happen to be spending the night with a grinning tormentor of old.

Advocaat is unlikely to lend a sympathetic ear to Celtic's plight, although he is not in Scotland to offer comfort to fans who can at least vent in his direction frustrations which have built-up over the season.

The strutting Dutchman is possibly the last person Celtic supporters wished to see turn up at Parkhead just three days after the Rangers team he once managed with such belligerence sealed another championship win. The quick re-scheduling of a friendly postponed last week due to the flight disruption caused by volcanic ash has not met with universal approval in the east end of Glasgow. As one Celtic fan was heard to moan: "The season's shot to bits and along comes Dick."

The fear is that Advocaat will relish the opportunity to gloat at the travails of Celtic, although the Dutchman might have curried some favour among Celtic fans when denying his former club a European title two years ago. Advocaat was then in charge of Zenit St Petersburg, who defeated Rangers 2-0 in the Uefa Cup final at the City of Manchester stadium. This Russian episode just one more stop-off in a peripatetic managerial career.

Advocaat only left Rangers in 2002, but since then has been appointed to seven different managerial positions. For a spell he held two at the same time, but his recent resignation from the Belgium national team post meant he was left to concentre on just AZ Alkmaar, where he took over from Ronald Koeman at the end of last year. His decision to leave Belgium in the lurch after less than six months in charge has left many in the country unimpressed.

But it is typical Advocaat. He is an opportunist, one who likes to be where the glamour is. Failing that, he will happily head for where the money is. He has already reported to have had his re-planted head of hair turned by the 5 million reportedly being offered by the Russian Football Union, who want Advocaat to replace compatriot Guus Hiddink as manager of the national team. The new head of Russian football's governing body is former Zenit president Sergei Fursenko, the man who initially brought Advocaat to Russia. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich once funded Hiddink's 6.25 million-a-year after-tax salary. It remains a well-rewarded position.

But there was a time when Rangers could tempt Advocaat with such riches. It was a different financial landscape at Ibrox when the Dutchman arrived in Govan in 1998. He was charged with the task of taking Rangers to the "next level" by David Murray. This was a reference to the latter stages of European competition but despite spending extreme sums of money, Advocaat remained frustrated on this stage.

But his philosophy remained spend, spend, spend. Rangers are perhaps now reaping the bleak harvest of this short-sighted policy. Perhaps Advocaat's most remarkable achievement at Ibrox remains his success in convincing Murray to sanction the 12 million signing of Tore Andre Flo in November 2000.

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But to his credit, the Rangers chairman has not held this against Advocaat. Indeed the Dutchman was invited, along with those other managers who served under Murray, to the wedding of the chairman's son, Keith, five years ago. They remain close. "Rangers is the best club I have ever had," said Advocaat, a decade ago. "The best club, with the best chairman, with the best stadium and the best support. I have become a Rangers man.

"I had a drink recently with Walter Smith and Graeme Souness, and I enjoyed it because they could relate to what I was saying. It is a great club."

Such comments mean that as hot a reception as the far-from capacity crowd can muster will be in store for him this evening. But the inimitable Dutchman will no doubt relish another opportunity to visit a stadium in which he tasted both success and, it must be noted, embarrassing failure. In August 2000 he watched his Rangers team defeated 6-2 in a match which came to be known – by Celtic fans at least – as the demolition derby. Advocaat's last trip to Parkhead ended in a 2-1 defeat to Martin O'Neill's Celtic side in November 2001.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. However, those who turn up tonight will not have forgotten Advocaat's uncompromising style, or his appetite for conflict.