By Stewart Fisher

FROM huge highs to shattering lows, Dick Advocaat just happens to have handed out some of the defining moments of Steven Davis’ football life.

Growing up a Rangers fan in Ballymena, the young Davis idolised Advocaat and his title-winning Ibrox teams, only to be essentially spurned by them when he went on trial there with a view to signing for their youth teams in his early teenage years.

Then there was the small matter of being on the receiving end that fateful evening in Manchester in 2008 when Advocaat’s Zenit St Petersburg put and end to his hopes of lifting the Uefa Cup.

The only member of that team still plying his trade for Rangers today, the 34-year-old would dearly love to exact some revenge tonight. What the Ibrox side would give to reach another continental final 11 years on.

“I have never met Dick but I knew all about him as a Rangers fan growing up,” said Davis. “I looked up to a lot of the players and that was actually a period when I was coming over to the club on trial.

“I would have been around the stadium back then but I don’t think I ever met him,” the 34-year-old added.

“I first started going to Rangers on a trial as a 10-year-old until I was about 12 but I ended up signing for Aston Villa when I was 14. I did have the chance to sign but we left it a few months to have a think about before committing and the circumstances changed a little bit and I ended up signing for Villa instead.

“But I have fond memories of that era,” he added. “There were so many players that I enjoyed watching. I didn’t manage to get to any of the European games but I’d watch them on TV back home.”

A strange mixture of emotions goes through Davis’ mind when he think back to that night in Manchester. “He [Advocaat] did a great job when he was here but obviously I don’t have great memories from the 2008 final,” said Davis. “I wouldn’t say it my lowest day in football as we did so well to get there in the first place.

“But we wanted to enjoy the occasion as much as possible and obviously if you don’t get a result you can’t do that. But when you look back on that and think about the achievement of reaching the final, there is fondness. At that stage though, you want to win it.”

As it happens, Davis’ profile in the Netherlands may never have bee higher. Twice in the last month he has locked horns with their national team in the colours of Northern Ireland.

While the topic of his wild penalty over the bar at Windsor Park last week was raised with a smile from the press conference floor yesterday, only a month previously he came so close to pulling off a famous victory at this very stadium.

Northern Ireland led by virtue of a 75th minute Josh Magennis goal until the roof caved in on them in a 3-1 defeat.

“It’s a great stadium and I’m sure there will be a really good atmosphere for the game,” said Davis. “Our fans have been looking forward to this one since the draw was made.

“The players are the same and I know how good the atmosphere can be from the Northern Ireland game. We brought a lot of fans with us and there was great noise. We were close to a big result against Holland that night but it wasn’t to be. We were unlucky. We went 1-0 up but then we conceded late goals. Hopefully there will be a more positive outcome this time.”

Rangers were more comfortable winners than the 1-0 scoreline suggested when they triumphed against Feyenoord at Ibrox in September, but with Advocaat having replaced Jaap Stam in the hot-seat, Davis expects a different outfit on home soil

“We expect a different Feyenoord side,” he said. “You often see a contrast between home and away performances from teams. But the most important thing is we focus on ourselves. We know they’ve got quality and if you give them time they can hurt you.

“From our point of view, we just have to try and replicate the performances we’ve shown in the competition and if we do that we’ll give ourselves a good chance. It would be a huge boost for everyone at the club if we could qualify. We want to get it done as soon as possible but if you’d offered us the chance to qualify with a win in the final game we’d have taken it.”