LONDON: Dutch coaches are ‘flavour of the month.’ After Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United and Ronald Koeman at Southampton, Dick Advocaat has been appointed to try to save Sunderland from relegation.
The ‘Little General’, despite now being 67, has never worked in English football though he had four years at Rangers in Scotland. He might have wished for a less challenging debut than to rescue the Blacks Cats from Gus Poyet’s legacy of chaos and bad temper. But he will be paid almost £1m to manage it.
Sunderland are one point above Burnley in the Premier League relegation zone with only nine games remaining and a testing visit to West Ham awaiting them on Saturday. Koeman can do his fellow Dutchman a welcoming favour by defeating Burnley simultaneously and giving Advocaat breathing space after his first ‘live’ sight of his new players.
Uruguayan Poyet had been in charge at the Stadium of Light for 17 months after taking over from Paolo Di Canio but his dismissal was inevitable after last weekend’s 4:0 home defeat by Aston Villa.
Poyet had been a popular player with Chelsea and Tottenham and then developed a promising managerial career at lower division Brighton. He kept Sunderland in the Premier League last season but has been unable to build on that rescue work – just like predecessors including Paolo Di Canio, Martin O’Neill and Steve Bruce.
Last season Poyet even steered Sunderland to the League Cup Final (where they lost to Manchester City). But those happy few days have been forgotten in the anger and upset of the first three months of this year.
Poyet turned the fans against him in February when he criticised them for unrealistic expectations. He claimed he had been misquoted in the media which, predictably, also turned the local television, radio and newspapers against him.
Saturday saw Sunderland sink to further depths when they conceded four first-half goals at home to fellow strugglers Villa. Fans started streaming out of the ground in protest at the interval, leaving American owner Ellis Short with no option but to find a new manager.
Advocaat needs to bring the fans back onside and instil new confidence and belief in a dispirited squad.
He also needs to find the right tactics and players to score some goals: only Villa (19) have scored fewer goals than Sunderland (23). Midseason arrival Jermain Defoe has managed only two goals in eight games and look isolated up front on Saturday.
Advocaat’s best strategy will be to target Sunderland’s home games. They have managed only two home wins this season but the visits of Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Leicester offer realistic opportunities for Sunderland to gain the points they need for survival.