IN HIS 35-year coaching career, Dick Advocaat has experienced plenty of hostile environments.
He recalls the infamous 1999 Old Firm derby at Celtic Park. Rangers won 3-0 to seal the Scottish title. Three players were sent off and the referee was hit by a missile thrown by the crowd.
I think if we can get in behind Newcastle straight from the beginning, then our fans can become the key factor in this gameDick Advocaat
During his time in Russia, the clashes between Zent St Petersburg and CSKA Moscow were not much more tame.
It will stand Advocaat in good stead for his first experience of the North East derby tomorrow, where he won’t be fazed by the noise, hostility or vitriol from the crowd.
This is no Steve Bruce, who was gripped by anxiety in the run-up to this fixture and it proved to be fatal in the 5-1 rout at St James’s Park.
But Advocaat knows his reaction to the derby cauldron is largely meaningless tomorrow. It is how his players deal with the occasion that matters.
“In the Old Firm, it was special in the home games,” he told the Echo.
“Although I can also remember we became champions at Celtic with a 3-0 win.
“Normally, it takes you 20 minutes driving back from Celtic to Rangers. That day it took us three hours I believe!
“Every game between St Petersburg and Moscow was like going into battle.
“But it’s more the players and how they react.
“We have experienced players.
“They know what to do and what to expect.
“Every game in England is a real battle, but we cannot ask so much. We have to do it. It’s quite simple.
“There can’t be ‘maybe next week’. It’s tomorrow.”
It’s a quirk of the fixture list that Advocaat, like Gus Poyet and Paolo Di Canio before him, faces Newcastle in his second game at the helm.
But Advocaat is glad to be playing the derby on home soil, despite Sunderland’s dire record of just two Stadium of Light Premier League wins this season.
The ex-Holland man believes the support from the terraces can make the difference in Sunderland’s bid to record a fifth successive win over Newcastle, and plans to harness that fan-power by coming out of the traps quickly.
“I think if we can get in behind Newcastle straight from the beginning, then our fans can become the key factor in this game,” he said.
“If players feel they get support from the home fans, they believe even more.
“That’s what we really need in our last four home games.
“Our fans have to realise how important they are.”