Wise Men Say: Advocaat’s got the right stuff to take Sunderland forward

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Wise Men Say

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It may not feel like it, but yesterday marked the sixth consecutive season in which Sunderland have been safe going into the final day.

Admittedly, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

If anyone is going to get a squad together capable of pushing the top 10, you’d think Advocaat is the man

It feels like every season is a struggle against the drop, and it’s a habit we need to get out of, but it’s at least comforting to know that we seem to be experts at picking up points when we need them most.

And for all the criticism that gets hurled at Ellis Short these days (unfairly, in my book), he has one undeniable quality – the ability to make season-saving appointments.

The last manager to have completed a 38-game season for us was Steve Bruce in 2011, and since then, each appointment has had a short-term impact.

Martin O’Neill comfortably guided us to 13th after a miserable start to the season in 2012, followed by Di Canio, followed by Poyet.

All of them saved us from the drop, but none of them really pushed on.

Dick Advocaat, with more experience than most of the Premier League put together, hinted that unless significant investment is made, he won’t be continuing as Sunderland manager.

He’s well aware of the fate of his predecessors, he knows the club are stuck in a rut, and he isn’t prepared to become the latest long-term failure.

That’s how I see it, anyway.

That said, it takes a lot more than money to stabilise a club who constantly find themselves fighting against relegation. I wouldn’t say we’ve been underspending at all, rather that we haven’t invested in the right areas.

For example, John O’Shea, Patrick van Aanholt and Billy Jones are the only defenders we have who are contracted beyond the end of the season.

Surely a Premier League team should never find themselves in that situation?

But if anyone is going to get a squad together capable of pushing the top 10, you’d think Advocaat is the man. Granted, he only has so much control under a director of football, but the Dutchman has the pulling power that we’ve lacked over the last few years.

Five or six quality players, as suggested by Advocaat, might be stretching the budget somewhat, but Sunderland need match-winners.

The current crop isn’t going to get us very far, regardless of who’s managing them.

The counter argument is that no manager should be judged too much based on nine matches.

After all, this isn’t the first time we’ve finished the season strongly. But there just seems to be something extra that Advocaat brings to the table.

After the mind-numbing defensive shipwreck of Gus Poyet’s final months, it was a breath of fresh air to see us pick three forwards and try to win games.

And he is, to my knowledge, the only Sunderland manager to have had a successful career outside the United Kingdom.

I’m sure the club won’t have put all their eggs into the Advocaat basket, but the focus will all be on persuading the former Netherlands manager to add another year to the contract.

And who knows? We might even make it through the entire season without sacking him.

The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Dick Advocaat. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes