DICK Advocaat is into his 17th different job in the 18 years which have passed since he left Rangers. But still Rangers never really left him.

Four years ago, for instance, whilst on a brief stint at Sunderland, this warlike little man known as the Little General made a secret visit back north to visit his past life and found himself besieged by fans seeking for autographs and selfies.

“When I was at Sunderland, I came with my friend [former Rangers assistant] Bert van Lingen to the training ground, the stadium and the house where I lived in that period,” said the 72-year-old yesterday, as he prepared to lead Feyenoord into today’s pivotal Group G encounter against his former team.

“When we came up to the stadium, we saw a different man behind the desk than before but he still recognised me and said we could go wherever we wanted,” Advocaat added. “There was a tour on at the time and the people all came down. So it took two hours before we could go!”

Advocaat’s fondness for the place for outweighs the five trophies he claimed in his three-and-a-half years at the club. “It’s not emotional,” said Advocaat. “I have great memories of Rangers and I still have some friends there, but in the meantime I have had so many other clubs.

“But it was by far the most beautiful time of my career,” he added. “When you are there, you are really somebody with that Rangers badge on. The players, the staff, the way they treat you. The club has style. Rangers have style. The club and the fans make you aware of that. Something happens to your mind and your body. It comes from everybody there up to the lady who does the washing. Everything about the club has style.”

He may not have recognised the man behind the desk anymore, but at least compared to where Rangers were when he made that journey three years ago, there will be something recognisable about a team under Steven Gerrard which is attempting to reclaim its former glories. Not only that, but he recognises a little bit of himself in the form of the Englishman in the way he prowls his technical area and kicks every ball on the touchline.

“You can see Rangers have the right personality there in Steven Gerrard,” said Advocaat. “You can see the way he is on the touchline.

“With his profile and background, everybody knows what he is about,” he added. “You can see it in the players as well because everyone is really fighting for their position.

“Do I see any of myself in him?” said the Dutchman. “No, he was a much better player than me! On the touchline, maybe I was even more passionate than him. Maybe.

“But I saw him against Feyenoord and against the referees, it is a little bit the same as I do. So in that way, definitely.”

Even at 72, you can hardly miss Advocaat’s pugnacious streak. “I’m a little bit more tired in the evening,” he said. “But the rest is still the same.”

Whatever responsibility Advocaat carries for Rangers ending up in their mess - he was an EBT holder but blaming him for using them is a bit like castigating the kids for being permitted to go wild with mum and dad’s credit card – he always felt Rangers would return to their full strength given time and is delighted to see them making such strides.

Having said that, he has thwarted them once already in Europe as manager of Zenit St Petersburg for the 2008 Uefa Cup final and has designs on doing so again in a match where Rangers could qualify for the last 32 if they can better Porto’s result.

“For me, it was unbelievable that a big, big European club like Rangers would fall so far and be in the third division,” said Advocaat. “The good thing is that they came back again in a very short period.

“A lot has happened at the club. Maybe the club needed it, or maybe it happened a little bit too quick. I wasn’t totally involved in what happened because I wasn’t there.

“But in my opinion, a big club like Rangers or Celtic will always come back. Rich people, people who want to be involved in football, will get involved. And you could see that the stadium was always full.”

Whether it is mind games or not, asked to recall that fateful evening in Manchester in 2008, Advocaat volunteers the fact that he was far more confident then than he is now.

Mind games or not, set to be without Rick Karsdorp and Edgar Ie, Feyenoord lost 3-2 to lowly Groningen at the weekend and Advocaat is at pains to suggest that his side go into this match as underdogs.

“I was really quiet in that game [in 2008] because some friends were sitting there, like David Murray, John Greig and others who I worked with in a great time,” he said. “I miss a lot of people from then.

‘But I was the coach of a different club and they wanted to win. On that evening, I had a better feeling about winning than now.”

“Sometimes a manger has the tendency to make opens better than they are but Rangers are a good team. Even a very good Feyenoord team from a couple of years ago would have massive battle to beat them. But every team can cause an upset. In this stadium, anything can happen.