Pete Sixmsith offers an appreciative, heartfelt and understanding adieu to our departing saviour. Even after just nine games in charge, Dick Advocaat will be a hard one to follow …
Since I started writing for Salut! Sunderland I have written valedictory pieces for Roy Keane, Ricky Sbragia, Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Paolo di Canio and Gus Poyet. And now it’s the turn of Dick Advocaat.
This one is unique because all the others were sacked, but the departure of the Dutchman is different because he has left of his own volition, having done the job that he was brought in to do.
When Poyet was dismissed by the owner in March, we were heading for a bottom three place and goodness knows how many years in the Championship.
While Poyet had not “lost the dressing room” it was clear the players were unsure of what was required of them, culminating in that horrific 45 minutes against Villa. I thought that there was no recovery from that, expected to pick up no more than a couple more points and fully expected to see us relegated by the end of April.
Clearly Advocaat had been spoken to before the Villa game, as those running the club could see that Gus was looking more and more like a man who had lost his marbles.
So, when the axe fell on him, Dick was ready to step in with the simple brief of “Keep us up; we need all that lovely money next year.”
I have no idea how the players felt but I suspect that they were delighted to be working with a head coach who told them what to do in clear and simple terms and who made it plain that they started with a clean slate. I also suspect that he had a detailed dossier on the players gleaned from TV and from having asked his people to watch games and draw up a good/bad check list for each one.
He walked into a big club, excellent training facilities, a crop of decent players and one or two good ones, but whose confidence, although not shattered, was fragile.
The first game at West Ham showed him our strengths; the players could follow instructions, they were defensively sound, the midfield was solid. He saw our weaknesses, too, – the difficulty we had in coming back when we concede because there was no flair in that hard working midfield, the forwards were not given enough chances and when they did get them, they failed to score.
It needed organisation, hard work and belief and Advocaat gave them that in spades. Take the Palace game out of the equation and he lost but a single game and that was at Chelsea.
He guided the players to three wins and three draws, gleaning 12 points, which is 10 more than I would have expected. It wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t pretty but it was effective and as Burnley and QPR fell away and Hull and Newcastle slid into the zone, Advocaat was able to guide us to safety.
Cheers all round for the Dutchman.
Here’s what M Salut had to say at ESPN about Dick Advocaat’s departure: http://www.espnfc.com/club/sunderland/366/blog/post/2469547/can-sunderland-cope-with-dick-advocaats-exit
“A number of clubs contacted me but the decision was always Sunderland or nobody.” The Sunderland faithful will love the last few words. Their club got under Advocaat’s skin, just as it had with the club’s ex-chairman Niall Quinn. And he had repaid their support by emulating the feats of Paolo di Canio, Guy Poyet and, for that matter, Martin O’Neill, in keeping their team up.
I think we all knew, deep down, that he would then head back to his new house in the Netherlands, to the warmth of his family and his memories of winning titles in various European countries.
At 68 (older than Monsieur Salut, believe it or not) the prospect of working long hours trying to build something at Sunderland was probably not that attractive.
Players had to be recruited and released. Opponents had to be scouted and prepared for. There would be long days on the training ground and long nights talking to the owner, the chief executive and the sporting director.
At his age, he would not relish that prospect. He had succeeded in the short term. For a man with his pedigree in club football, that was fairly easy. Look at the players here, get them to do what I want them to for nine games and safety is virtually guaranteed. But to do it over 38 games? At 68? Much, much harder.
As supporters, all we can say is thank goodness that he came into the club for those nine games because we were sunk without him.
His wisdom, his experience and his desire never to have a relegation on his cv got the club through a very tricky period. Compared with a maniac like Di Canio and a man who was probably a bit too clever for his own good in Poyet, he brought that practicality that the Dutch have – solid, effective, a touch of showmanship at times, but a work ethic that rubbed off onto players from totally different backgrounds to his.
I am sure that the owner knew that this was likely to be a short term appointment and that contingency plans have been made. We need a quick appointment and a correct one – this is probably the most important appointment that Short will make because another season of struggle will kill off much of the support.
Ellis Short comes from Missouri, a state where the people are sceptical of those who promise the world. Harry S Truman had a sign on his desk that he turned round when he was being fed bulls***; it said “I’m from Missouri” and when he showed that to someone pitching a policy that was more fantasy than fact, the pitcher knew it was time to leave the Oval Office.
We have had pitches from Bruce, Di Canio and Poyet which deserved to have the same treatment. This time we need something sensible, practical and above all successful. Over to you Ellis – and thanks for the last two months, Dick.