Pete Sixsmith was quick off the mark in welcoming news of Dick Advocaat’s one-year term as head coach. Here is his considered view on this and other developments in football …
Good news comes in threes, something that was proved beyond any reasonable doubt this week.
First of all, Sepp Blatter did the honourable thing and walked into the Fifa library (full of hagiographies of the Sainted Sepp) and metaphorically chose from the pearl-handled revolvers.
Of course, had he done it literally, he may well have handed one each to Mr Jack Warner (what a fall from grace after Dock Green) and Chuck Blazer (crazy beard, crazy name), who would have undoubtedly kept them amidst the watches, jewellery and other gee-gaws collected over a career of Fifa-inspired kleptomania.
Good news two came on Monday when I was privileged to sample Mrs Mulholland’s lunch buffet at Darlington Cricket Club during the interval on the first day of the Durham v Worcestershire Second XI Championship game. It is widely regarded as one of the great treats on the circuit and I got on the list due to the influence of friends – which all sounds a bit Blatterish.
But the best news arrived this lunchtime (Thursday), courtesy of Mick Hall, a Sunderland supporter of the same vintage as Monsieur Salut and I, who passed on the news outside the Shildon branch of Costa Coffee (oh yes, we have one!!) that Dick Advocaat had signed up for a year – as Sunderland manager, not as a Costa Barista.
This was splendid news and I hurried home for confirmation. The BBC site had it as did the Sunderland Echo, so that was good enough for me. I cracked open the Amstel, rolled out a Gouda and placed the theme from Van der Valk on the turntable to celebrate the re-appointment of Sunderland’s favourite roly-poly Dutchman.
Why the change of mind? Had Mrs Advocaat tired of asking him to lift his feet up while she did the hovering? Was he refusing to do the washing up and making endless cups of Douwe Egberts in the good lady’s pristine kitchen?
Had he mown the lawn, washed his DAF car and groomed the dog until they all sparkled?
Whatever it was, he was prepared to succumb to the entreaties of Messrs Congerton and Short and return to the Stadium of Light.
What did they say to him? Did they assure him that Ricky Alvarez would be as far from Sunderland as possible next season? Did they offer him a constant supply of ham and pease pudding stotties, for Dick looks like a chap who enjoys the odd stottie? Was it because Lee spent a week camped outside Chez Advocaat, begging him to reconsider every time he popped out to groom the lawn or cut the car or wash the dog? (I think that I may have become a tad confused there in my excitement).
Hopefully, it will work out for us. We now have a longer look at a top class coach who appears to know how to deal with players who must be sick and tired of constant change in the managerial department.
Players know what to expect from him and the new ones who come in will be able to follow the experienced ones along Advocaat Way the Champions League qualification.
It also gives us another 12 months to find a younger fit for the hot seat and means that we are not rushing into an appointment that is the most important since the last most important one. It should see an end to speculation about the likes of Old Mother Redknapp and Big Sam Allardyce, both most definitely yesterday’s men.
It means that the owner has promised decent funds to bring in players who will improve on the ones we have at the moment. Steve Bruce (now of the SkyBet Championship) did that in his first transfer window when he brought in Cattermole, Cana and Bent and we were looking good for a while. Players of a similar or better quality are more likely to come to Sunderland if stalked by Dick Advocaat than they would if it were Sean Dyche texting them at all hours.
Finally, Advocaat seems to believe that football is a simple game, unlike the last two managers who tended to rather over complicate it.
I was reminded of this on Wednesday night when I attended a wonderful talk on North Eastern football by the inimitable (and very tall) Harry Pearson at Auckland Castle. He was talking about Harry Potts, the Burnley manager of the 60s and, like our own Malcolm Dawson, a Hetton lad through and through.
Pearson had been talking to Ray Pointer, Cramlington-born centre forward in the splendid Burnley team that Potts managed. Pointer said the only thing he remembered Potts saying to the team was directed at the wingers, John Connelly and Brian Pilkington, and it was that “when you see the letter T on the Woolworth’s advertising hoarding down the side of the ground, that’s when you cross the ball”.
Welcome back to our much loved Dutch uncle and here’s to a season when we are safe by my birthday – March 18.