Sunderland analysis: Players produce a performance for Dick Advocaat

Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher

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Until the white smoke appears from the Stadium of Light chimney, then we won’t formally know that Dick Advocaat has severed ties with Sunderland.

But let’s face it, the writing’s on the wall. The quiet nods and sly winks are in every corner of Wearside.

Advocaat decided to delay the inevitable after the final whistle by remaining vague over his future, rather than confirming that he was leaving.

That rubber-stamping may well come today.

Yet the tears in Advocaat’s eyes when Jeremain Lens exquisitely lobbed Adrian told a story. So too did his hug with Slaven Bilic afterwards.

Perhaps the only regret for Advocaat was that he wasn’t able to leave his successor three points.

If Advocaat had asked for one last stand from his players, then they undoubtedly responded to that challenge.

This was as good a 45-minute performance as Sunderland have produced in more than a year. If they had been three, four or five up, West Ham couldn’t have complained.

Sunderland were sharp, committed, found space and looked a constant threat, with Steven Fletcher producing a superb display in leading the line.

Setting aside his knack of performing against Newcastle, this was as good as Fletcher has looked since he first arrived at the Stadium of Light.

The only shortcoming was that Fabio Borini didn’t put the game to bed. Carl Jenkinson’s goal on the stroke of half-time, coupled with Jeremain Lens’ red-card, completely put Sunderland on the back foot.

The concern though is that Sunderland produced when the chips were down; when they needed to show a response for their manager.

Where was this at Bournemouth, at Leicester or here against Norwich?

The players are far from the main culprits for what’s developing into another shambolic situation at the Stadium of Light.

The players and managers have changed, but the club has remained in the doldrums. That tells you something.

But there remains a chronic inconsistency about this team. That is going to need to change under Advocaat’s successor.