Analysis - Dick Advocaat is just echoing view of previous Sunderland managers

Yann M'Vila in action for Sunderland against Norwich. Picture by FRANK REID
Yann M'Vila in action for Sunderland against Norwich. Picture by FRANK REID
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Listen closely and you can hear the echoes in the Stadium of Light press conference room.

“There’s something wrong,” says Martin O’Neill. “There’s something wrong,” says Paolo Di Canio. “There’s something wrong,” says Gus Poyet.

It was no surprise that the crowd turned their attentions to Ellis Short, as Norwich preyed on Sunderland’s schoolboy defending

On Saturday, a shell-shocked Dick Advocaat took his place in the choir, as he tried to make sense of another unfathomably awful performance from a side who simply don’t look up to scratch in the Premier League.

It’s not merely coincidence that this succession of managers have identified a rotten element in the club’s fabric.

Advocaat’s search for a single factor at an x-rated team meeting yesterday would have been a fruitless one.

It’s not just one thing that’s wrong at Sunderland. It’s that there’s so many things wrong at Sunderland.

No identity. No direction. No continuity in the dug-out. No improvement of the playing squad. No clear way of playing.

I could go on.

Other than the staggering persistence of 40,000-plus souls through the turnstiles, there’s not a lot that feels positive at present.

As Sunderland’s annual toils and humiliations have continued, supporters have seen that the club’s problems have not simply stemmed from the manager in charge at the time, or a playing squad that has lacked the mental and physical prowess to thrive.

It was no surprise that the crowd turned their attentions to Ellis Short, as Norwich preyed on Sunderland’s schoolboy defending.

Short had not received any criticism from the crowd previously, yet with Sunderland’s modest net spend so far this summer, there was always a powder keg waiting to explode if things went wrong against the Canaries.

On a day-to-day basis, Short has minimal involvement in the running of the club, yet he’s the man at the top and has to accept responsibility for the downwards direction that Sunderland are heading in.

Clearly, both Advocaat and every single supporter can see that this squad is not hugely better than last season, setting aside Jeremain Lens and potentially Yann M’Vila, who showed a few encouraging signs on his debut.

And with neither Short or any other member of the hierarchy speaking publicly – aside from the odd club media piece – fans inevitably draw their own conclusions about how much (or how little) has been spent so far this summer.

These next two weeks before the window shuts are going to be seismic for how Sunderland fare this season and whether they miss out on next summer’s bumper TV deal by ending their nine-year tenure in the top flight.

However, Short was not on the field on Saturday participating in another rudderless, lacklustre display.

Neither have a very impressive newly-promoted Norwich side benefited from an open cheque book.

Norwich are a cohesive unit though. Sunderland are not.

As Advocaat adeptly put it afterwards: “11 players play, but we are not a team.”

That’s what stems from a squad assembled by Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Roberto De Fanti, Paolo Di Canio, Lee Congerton, Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat. That’s far too many contrasting footballing philosophies.

The Canaries simply kept a solid team shape and played to their strengths by knocking the ball down the channels for Cameron Jerome to chase after, before playing from there through the guile of Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond.

But even that basic approach was beyond Sunderland.

The Black Cats’ game-plan seemed to be limited to long punts forwards from the centre-halves, or a blind hope that they could scramble the ball to Jeremain Lens in a half-decent position.

There was never any sustained pressure in the final third from the hosts. In truth, there hasn’t been at Sunderland since the purple patch at the start of Martin O’Neill’s reign.

Couple that with Sunderland’s defensive vulnerability and it’s spelled curtains against two of the sides expected to be around them in the bottom eight come the reckoning next May.

As at Leicester, Patrick van Aanholt was again awful – and not just his control when going forward – with the left-back out of position for the second goal and then catching 40 winks for the third.

Younes Kaboul is already rusty, yet the ex-Spurs man looks even worse because he’s doing two jobs to cover for van Aanholt.

It’s the way Sunderland respond when they go 1-0 down though that indicates a mentality problem, which Advocaat faces an uphill battle to change.

Until the ball fortuitously ricocheted off Russell Martin, there was nothing in it.

But after that blow midway through the first half, the fight and determination disappeared from Sunderland’s ranks – even Lee Cattermole who had look far more like his old self early on.

Rather than pressing Norwich to get a foothold back in the game, Sunderland sat off and made it oh-so-easy to wind the clock down.

The contrast between Duncan Watmore and the rest was stark. The 21-year-old was a breath of fresh air.

But it shouldn’t take a Premier League debutant to provide a single ray of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.