Forget long-term planning – Sunderland just need to stay up

Dick Advocaat

Dick Advocaat

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Over the weekend many pundits have been holding court on their one and only specialised subject. Hindsight.

Common opinion is: “Dick Advocaat should never have returned to Sunderland” and knowing what we do now, it is difficult to demur.

I described the football of Allardyce’s West Ham in a 1-1 draw with Sunderland in 2012 as “the ugliest I have ever seen in the Premier League” and I stand by the statement. But Sunderland supporters inhabit reality, which is why most of them would welcome him. Pep Guardiola ain’t coming and the team needs points; urgently.

However, this sort of sagacity would have been considerably more impressive had we heard it in July, rather than October.

But Mr Advocaat is now a figure from the past who, aged 68, can hardly be blamed for divesting himself of unnecessary stress and toddling off to attend to his tulips (which is all that Dutch people do in their spare time). He leaves with gratitude and good wishes.

What’s done is done and the important issue now is that of Dick’s replacement. Some of the names being seriously suggested can be categorised somewhere between “unconvincing” and “truly terrifying”.

Sean Dyche has not done badly at Burnley and he may become a top manager. But only a few years ago similar plaudits were being lobbed at the likes of Phil Brown, Nigel Adkins, Owen Coyle, Brian McDermott – and Roy Keane.

The bookies have offered short prices on the unhinged Nigel Pearson (7/2), the unwanted Brendan Rodgers (10/1), the untried Patrick Vieira (12/1) and the unheard of Bob Bradley (20/1) (I Googled Bob Bradley and it said he was an American gospel singer who died in 2007 – I suspect this is not the same bloke).

Also touted are Paul Bracewell, who has not managed since exiting Halifax in 2001, Glenn Hoddle, who has also not managed for almost a decade and never achieved much anyway (contrary to popular belief) and Michael Laudrup, who is unlikely to be interested. Ditto David Moyes. Then there is the tomato-faced veteran Harry Redknapp, whose twin talents of wasting other people’s money and relegating QPR twice in three seasons, contribute to making him the most overrated manager in the history of English football.

Those quoted at longer odds than anyone named above have bigger prices for a reason.

They are all managerial failures. They even include Terry Butcher, sacked by bottom-of-the-Football-League Newport County on Thursday and a spectacularly awful gaffer for 20-odd years, including a short but horrible stint at Sunderland.

That said, Butcher once cut his head while playing for England apparently, so perhaps he would be a brilliant choice after all.

The reason we allude to this ever-burgeoning list of novices, ne’er-do-wells and chancers is that there is no compelling argument against employing Sam Allardyce – or at least attempting to.

Perhaps the least convincing contention against Allardyce is the aesthetic one: “We don’t want to watch a team who plays like that.”

That would be opposed to the hypnotic footballing beauty that neutrals constantly refer to when discussing the entertainment value of Sunderland in recent seasons.

Of course, in the absence of a world-class manager inexplicably jumping at the chance to take over at a club with four home wins in the last 17 months, Sunderland could just take relegation on the chin, than bounce back immediately into the Premier League with renewed vigour and a different philosophy.

What’s more, they could learn from the triumphant experiences of others who have tried this approach, such as Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Wolves, Middlesbrough....

I described the football of Allardyce’s West Ham in a 1-1 draw with Sunderland in 2012 as “the ugliest I have ever seen in the Premier League” and I stand by the statement.

But Sunderland supporters inhabit reality, which is why most of them would welcome him. Pep Guardiola ain’t coming and the team needs points; urgently. There is an almost touching naivety in those who are fussy as to how this should happen

“Where’s the long-term plan?” is a reasonable and regular question. Sadly, the club has dug itself into a hole and they can’t afford the luxury a long-term plan, because the financial implications for the three clubs relegated from the Premier League in 2015-16 are too painful to even contemplate.

We endlessly debate reasons for the current sorry state, but nothing alters the fact that SAFC can now only be concerned with their next 30 games.

The great Jimmy Montgomery told the Echo this week: “Our season can’t be just about staying up and beating Newcastle twice.”

I am loath to quibble with such a man, but between now and May 15 at least, reality dictates that the ambitions of Sunderland AFC are confined to exactly that.