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John Greig 'Dick Advocaat changed my life'


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RANGERS icon John Greig explains how he was reinvigorated by the Dutchman's arrival at Ibrox

A scene was played out at Ibrox on Wednesday night that reminded how lazy it was to characterise the Dick Advocaat era at Rangers as the club going Dutch and disregarding a particular brand of Scottishness. Advocaat returned to the ground like an old friend rather than the St Petersburg manager assessing his UEFA Cup final opponents. He was soon found in deep conversation with John Greig after the club's win over Motherwell. "It was just like old times," admits Greig. The reconstituting, indeed, of an old Dutch-Scots alliance so valued by both Advocaat during his Ibrox tenure from 1998 to 2001 and Greig, the greatest of Rangers greats.

A decade ago, Greig's input into Ibrox affairs appeared as if it would be restricted to a few hours a day of public relations work. A heart attack in early 1998 seemed as if it would force him to slow down at the club he had returned to eight years earlier. Then Advocaat arrived that summer. The impact on Greig was profound, as he acknowledged in his autobiography three years ago. "Dick Advocaat changed my life," he said. "He almost turned me around full circle in my career and put fire back in my belly."

The Dutchman remade Greig into both what the Rangers legend was at his most comfortable being, and what Advocaat himself was most at ease being around. He made him a football man again. Initially detailed to be his consort, Greig developed into Advocaat's confidante and then his coaching confrere. In 1983, Greig endured a seven-year exile from the club after stepping down as manager, drained by his inability to inspire the club from the dug-out as he had as a captain. Nearly two decades on, Advocaat allowed Greig to pull on a tracksuit and be his de facto assistant alongside Bert van Lingen.

"I've never been one for titles," says Greig, 65. "I started working for Dick to organise the press for him but because he quickly understood my knowledge for the game and the club and length of time spent in both, I ended up spending every day with him. I just enjoyed it so much I was sad to see him leaving.

"But we have remained firm friends since then and, for me, it is the icing on the cake that in Wednesday's UEFA Cup final we are up against wee Dick. I think he needed someone who knew the lie of the land when he first came to Ibrox. Basically he is an introverted guy and gives the impression of being brusque only as a front. He was very shy in 1998 and once you got to know him he was a different guy. Our friendship became stronger and stronger as he involved me in more and more things until we were very, very close. I enjoyed our relationship immensely. It was a great time for me and a privilege to work with an ultimate professional, a meticulous coach."

The tales are legion about how much care and attention Advocaat took to cement a bond with the ultimate example of a Ranger. Greig met him the Dutchman at the airport when he first arrived and thereafter was by his side, on request, when he attended his first Rangers rally, on the club's first pre-season tour under him - cancelling his holiday to do so - and eventually for all trips, matches, press duties and, even, training sessions. Greig never earned a league championship medal as Rangers manager. But he did under Advocaat, who presented him with one inscribed with his name after the first of his two title successes.

"Because he was shy and working in a different country it was difficult to get close to him if you were on the outside, but on the inside was different," Greig says. "He's not a socialiser. Dick's idea of a good night in would be to lock himself in a room with half a dozen DVDs of football matches and watch them back to back. He is teetotal, doesn't smoke and just would watch games and games and games. That has always been his life.

"But he'll tell you now though that he will always feel a big part of Rangers and Rangers is a big part of him. He's been to other big clubs, won titles in three countries no less, but they don't mean the same to him as Rangers does. He wouldn't say it, but he can't lose this week. If his team wins, he's a winner. If we win, he'll be happy because it is Glasgow Rangers."

Greig is reserving judgment on how great an experience being back in a European final for the first time in 36 years will be for Rangers. No praise is too high for the management and players who are within touching distance of a quadruple, he says. But Greig knows that simply reaching European finals can never been seen as an end in itself for a "great club I always believe can do great things".

The 'greatest ever Ranger', as voted by the Ibrox supporters, is a club director now and so represents the one link between the four finals the club have contested in Europe. He had only recently signed for Rangers when his new team reached the climax of the inaugural Cup-Winners' Cup and played Fiorentina. They went down 2-1 in the return after losing the Ibrox first leg 2-0. Greig's recollections of that Glasgow night are personal.

"I had just come through from Edinburgh and didn't know a lot of the people at the club," he says. "I remember I couldn't believe the atmosphere at Ibrox that night but don't recall a thing about the game. What remains vivid is having to run from the ground to Queen Street station to catch the train home. I can't think a modern-day player would do that."

By the time Rangers' next European final came around, against Bayern Munich in 1967, Greig was captain. "We had gone step to with Celtic in the league and, looking back, it was a magnificent achievement for Glasgow and Scotland that we had teams in the two major European finals the same season. There was a lot of pressure on us because Celtic had won in Lisbon the week before and we were probably a bit unfortunate we drew Bayern in Nuremberg, basically a home game for them. Nobody at the time realised what great players Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and Sepp Maier were and it was a fair achievement to take them to extra-time before losing 1-0."

Bayern Munich also came into the equation as Rangers at last made the breakthrough in 1972, with the Ibrox side defeating the Bavarians in the semi-final before earning their only European trophy with a 3-2 win over Dynamo Moscow in the Cup-Winners' Cup final at Barcelona's Nou Camp. A triumph that Greig admits has been "overshadowed" by the pitch battles between Spanish police and fans.

"By that time, me and a couple of other players had experience of being in a final," he says. "After the semi-final win over Bayern, we had to guard against complacency coming up against unknown quantities in Moscow Dynamo. But I felt it was our turn, our time and as soon as I saw thousands of Rangers supporters waving massive flags as we approached the stadium I knew we couldn't lose.

"There are similarities in this run, in that we played teams from France, Portugal, Italy and Germany on the way. And I feel the same, in as much as I want this for the fans. Rangers has been my life, and Rangers is the life of these people. I have a great affinity with them. They spend fortunes travelling across Europe to see their team and, with Wednesday's final our 19th game on this run, they have had to dig really deep this season. I just hope the team can again because as a football player the goal is to bring your fans reward for their efforts and expense."

Where are they now? heroes of '72

Peter McCloy: Known as the 'Girvan Lighthouse', the former keeper is now head starter at Turnberry Golf Club.

Sandy Jardine: Stylish defender is back at Ibrox, employed in the club's commerical department.

Willie Mathieson: The left-back is retired and living in Inverness.

John Greig : The captain in Barcelona is now on the board at Ibrox. Also had a spell managing Rangers.

Derek Johnstone: Defender-cum-striker is a long-term pundit on Radio Clyde and a newspaper columnist.

Dave Smith: Gifted midfielder is now a publican in Montrose.

Tommy McLean: Right winger went into management and is now coaching Scotland under-17s.

Alfie Conn: Another now involved in the licensed trade. Infamous after joining Celtic via Spurs.

Colin Stein: Scored in the Nou Camp. The striker is a joiner to trade and lives in Linlithgow.

Alex MacDonald: Midfielder had successful management career with Hearts and Airdrie. Now involved in business and a matchday host for Rangers.

Willie Johnston: Two-goal hero of the Nou Camp runs the Portbrae Bar in Kirkcaldy


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Fantastic article, much of which is in his autobiography, which incidentally is a very good read and would strongly recommend to any Ger who wants to read about our greatest ever Ranger.

Also nice to see the where are they now bit for the 72 team, good to see a few of the team are still involved in the club

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