David Jones: Lee Congerton has earned Ellis Short’s trust

Dick Advocaat
Dick Advocaat
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So here we are, after 10 months and 36 games, Sunderland’s season boils down to two of the toughest matches of any campaign in the space of five days.

A solitary point is all that’s required, and even without a point we can all start planning for another season of Premier League football if Hull don’t beat Manchester United on Sunday.

With 37 points already on board, that it comes down to this is a major surprise to me.

I’ve been saying for weeks that 35 points would be enough, and it still might be, but my logic was based on the fact Leicester began April with just 19 points.

Their revival since then has been nothing short of extraordinary.

I didn’t expect them to be fighting against relegation this season after storming the Championship with 100 points, nor did I expect Sunderland to be entering these final two games in such a relative position of safety.

David Jones

David Jones

Of course, it could still end in tears, but not for a minute do I think United will lose on Sunday, nor would it surprise me if Sunderland picked up a point either at Arsenal or Chelsea.

For that we have Dick Advocaat to thank: he has achieved more than I imagined he would.

Advocaat put the fight back into the red and white shirts; brought the fans and the team together again and it seems, has saved our club from multi million pound losses, just as Gus Poyet and Paolo Di Canio did in the previous two years.

He will leave with a golden handshake and the love of Sunderland fans everywhere, leaving Sunderland’s decision makers to think long and hard about how they avoid this same struggle in 12 months time.

I remember asking Reidy if he felt the players were still listening to his instructions; he replied “I must be speaking Swahili” which in his thick Scouse accent made me chuckle and lightened a difficult moment for both of us.

As I said last week, Lee Congerton deserves huge praise for acting swiftly and decisively when he felt Poyet had run his race and the team were no longer responding to his messages.

Congerton already had the Dutchman lined up, the transition was smooth, the injection of energy and intensity almost instant.

The director of football will have earned Ellis Short’s trust and he’s earned the chance to lead the hunt for a new man with whom he can work to take our club forward.

Of course, there’s a job still to be done and it’s on to Arsenal tonight where Sunderland have yet to win in the Premier League in 13 attempts.

I will be fronting the coverage for Sky Sports in North London and it’s always a slightly strange feeling working on a Sunderland game.

I owe it to my employers and our viewers to completely distance myself from the game and treat it as I would any other. But it’s not a new experience for me.

I was on duty as a reporter at Sky studios in December 2000 when Sunderland went to Highbury and found themselves 2-0 down at half time. That was a Sunderland team I loved: Sorensen in goal, Schwarz and Rae in midfield, naturally Quinn and Phillips up front.

They didn’t know when they were beaten and so it proved that day, Super Kev pulled one back from the spot and Gavin McCann equalised in the 83rd minute.

By the time of our next visit to Highbury in March 2002, much had changed.

I’d been given a bit more responsibility by Sky and was now part of the outside broadcast team working on live matches as a pitchside reporter; Reidy’s time in charge meanwhile had taken a turn for the worse.

In our pre-match interview he told me how important it was Sunderland started the game well.

Four minutes into the game and the lads were 2-0 down: the game was over bar the shouting and difficult questions had to be asked of the man in charge.

When the game finished 3-0 I remember asking Reidy if he felt the players were still listening to his instructions; he replied “I must be speaking Swahili” which in his thick Scouse accent made me chuckle and lightened a difficult moment for both of us.

It turned out to be his last post match interview as Sunderland manager.

Let’s hope Advocaat has an easier ride with us tonight, I can afford myself a satisfied smile when the cameras stop rolling, and we can all enjoy Sunday without fear of the consequences.