Chris Young’s nalysis - Dick Advocaat’s U-turn is a Godsend for Sunderland
Less than 48 hours after the Emirates tears, Dick Advocaat was again struggling to contain his emotions.
Advocaat was shown a copy of the Echo at the Academy of Light and beneath the “Don’t Go Dick” headline, discovered the results of the poll which culminated in a whopping 96 per cent of readers wanting him to stay.
Even at 67, after a career which had seen Advocaat lift titles, European trophies and manage in World Cups, it was an overwhelming message for the man known as the “Little General”.
It all contributed to Advocaat being left stricken in two minds over whether to continue his club career, or go ahead with his plans to retire to his newly-built palatial home in the Dutch countryside.
But Ellis Short and Lee Congerton feared it wouldn’t be sufficient.
In the four days between Sunderland’s final two fixtures at Arsenal and Chelsea, they sensed that Advocaat would struggle to convince his family, particularly his wife, to be given the go-ahead to remain on Wearside.
When Advocaat’s rejection came just over a week ago, it was desperately disappointing for Sunderland’s hierarchy, but not necessarily a shock.
That was always their suspicion.
In the interim period, Sunderland were left in a quandary.
They knew the man they wanted and he perfectly fitted the profile of an experienced head, who could guide the club to some stability; removing the fear factor of relegation which has haunted this club for far too long.
But Advocaat was out of bounds.
The ex-Holland manager was more than willing to offer his advice towards a potential successor, yet it was a little like the beautiful ex setting you up with the girl giving you the eye from across the bar.
None of the alternatives broached in Sunderland’s brainstorming sessions really floated the boat.
David Moyes would perhaps have been the most popular alternative to Advocaat, yet the ex-Manchester United man was similarly unavailable after persistently preaching his eagerness to remain at Real Sociedad.
There were plenty of domestic and Continental options for Sunderland to approach - many of whom were out of work - yet there was neither an overwhelmingly appealing candidate, nor one which ticked all the boxes for club and supporters.
Congerton, well aware that the pressure was on him to secure Advocaat’s successor, was having to consider a variety of options, including discussions with a German possibility earlier this week.
But Advocaat’s change of heart over the last three days has come as a Godsend.
Suddenly, all that tension and uncertainty over Advocaat’s replacement has disappeared and the club immediately find themselves in a far stronger position.
Sunderland have the calm, seasoned man at the helm they needed, and just as importantly, they have him in good time at the start of the summer - allowing Congerton to recruit those half-a-dozen players that are so badly needed.
The Black Cats can now move forward in re-shaping the squad which requires that injection of astute investment in the right areas.
Advocaat will get that financial support.
When Advocaat spoke before his exit of Sunderland needing four, five or six “quality” arrivals who would immediately improve the calibre of the starting XI, Short would have heartily agreed.
Crucially, after years of his money being squandered, Short has far more faith that there will be far less wastage with Advocaat at the helm.
Unlike last summer, the head coach and sporting director are on the same page too.
There won’t be the same squabbling or thinly-veiled attacks in the press about the need for money to be spent immediately.
Perhaps the only reservation over Advocaat’s return is the brevity of a one-year deal and what happens beyond that.
Several supporters have made the suggestion of a potential successor working alongside Advocaat (akin to an upgraded Howard Wilkinson / Steve Cotterill model) and that’s not a ludicrous idea.
But Sunderland now have at least a year’s breathing space to put the club on an even footing, continue reforms to the academy structure and reshape the first-team squad.
The worry over Advocaat’s long-term successor has to be borne in mind, but it can wait.
For the moment, Sunderland can congratulate themselves that Dick is back.