Pete Sixsmith‘s report of the 2-2 draw with West Ham, and the dramatic aftermath, drew comments from both his brothers, Bishop-dwelling Michael (that doesn’t mean he lives inside a senior cleric) and exiled-in-Greece Phil. Will his farewell to Dick Advocaat produce another Sixer hat-trick?
Continuing our classical theme, we move from the Greek swansong (so ably deconstructed by Sixsmith Minor) to the Latin word “valediction”, which my trusty Chambers says is “a bidding farewell” (and which Sixer neatly offered as “valedicktion” when sending his article – Ed). There have been quite a few of those since Salut! Sunderland started up in the dim and distant past of the Roy Keane era.
Julius Caesar famously said (or probably didn’t) “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”).
Alas that does not apply to Dick Advocaat, who may say “I came, I saw, I quite liked it here, but why on earth did we bring in the likes of Kaboul, Borini and Matthews? Oh, well back to the tulip beds.”
There are very few Sunderland supporters who will have a bad word to say about the genial Dutchman.
One friend, someone a little bit ITK, texted yesterday morning to say that he was leaving with dignity and with the full respect of everyone, words which I think sum up the feelings of many of us.
This has been a very poor start to the season but it is clear that Advocaat knew that there needed to be a more positive style of play, which is why Lens, M’Vila and Toivonen were brought in and why Cattermole, Fletcher and O’Shea were left out.
We saw the benefits of the first three on Saturday. They were fleet of foot and quick of mind, exactly like the players you can see in the Bundesliga or La Liga on television. They play with skill and with energy which is exactly what the head coach wanted from them.
Now look at the British players he inherited. I thought he was wrong to prefer Kaboul to O’Shea and so did he as he re-instated the Irishman three games in.
But Cattermole and Fletcher epitomise all that is wrong with English football. Both are moderately talented players who seem to take little notice of managers and coaches and who continue to play the way that they want to.
Put Cattermole with a quality player like M’Vila and tell him what is expected of him, however, and you see an improvement. Cattermole would have seen M’Vila as a rival; Advocaat saw the two of them working together once the Teessider had stopped giving away needless penalties.
Fletcher turned in a very good performance on Saturday after being given a proper foil in Toivonen, allowing the Scot to play further up the field and not have to come back to search for the ball. It was probably his most effective display as a Sunderland player.
Now that Advocaat and Zeljko Petrovic have left, will these two slip back into their bad old ways, ways which have frustrated experienced managers like O’Neill and Advocaat, younger ones like Poyet and madmen like Di Canio?
Advocaat gave us a picture of what football was all about – movement, skill and the ability to do what you do properly. His ideas were well received by the crowd who had grown disillusioned with the keep ball played by Poyet , the stultifying boredom of the O’Neill era and the incompetence of Di Canio and de Fanti.
Advocaat’s departure leaves this writer feeling sad, angry and wondering where on earth we go to from here.
Sad that we did not have the full interim period to find the next manager/head coach; angry that, yet again, a club that Monsieur Salut, me and many thousands of others have devoted much of their lives to, is once again seen as a club that is going nowhere and is rapidly becoming a basket case.
And what of the future? It looks like we are going from a man who has won trophies, managed at international level and been at the top of the tree to a manager who has a reputation as one who “ensures you don’t get relegated” – and who may bring in Kevin Nolan.
Or it could be one who likens journalists to large flightless birds from Southern Africa or one who has done well at a properly run club and who may fancy a pitch at a bigger club but who may eventually baulk at the politics that seemingly go on under the surface at Sunderland.
If none of those, I am sure Jeremy Corbyn might inspire a few of the players to greater heights for the common good. Failing that, let’s bring in Boris.
Goodbye Dick. It was a pleasure to have a Head Coach with some vision. We may not see your like again.