Sunderland fans and heroes are backing Dick Advocaat to stay on in the Stadium of Light hotseat.
With the club on a seemingly inexorable slide towards the Championship and faced with the prospect of missing out on the Premier League’s TV riches, chairman Ellis Short took drastic action in March and drafted in the former Rangers boss on a two-month contract to replace the sacked Gus Poyet.
Reports at the time suggested that, whatever the result of the appointment, Advocaat would not still be in the dug-out come the new season, with Dutch journalist Arno Vermeule saying: “His wife doesn’t allow him to work abroad for a long time. He has to be at home next year so she allows him to work for two months in England for Sunderland.”
But Advocaat has obviously taken to Sunderland and broke down in tears at the final whistle of Wednesday night’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal that secured the Black Cats’ top-flight status.
Today a staggering 96% of Echo readers said they wanted him to stay and oversee what is set to be a summer of major rebuilding at the Stadium of Light.
A Love Supreme editor Martyn McFadden was at the Emirates to see Sunderland guarantee Premier League survival for another year: “It was nice to have a positive experience away to Arsenal for a change,” he said.
“I can only remember us winning there when we beat them in the League Cup and Darren Williams scored. Last night felt like a win, even though it wasn’t.”
Martyn would like to see the Dutchman given the chance to take the team forward but reckons chairman Ellis Short may have to put his money where his mouth is if the former Rangers boss is to be persuaded to stay.
“With Martin O’Neill we went for experience, then the chairman decided that did not work, so we went for younger, hungrier managers.Now he has gone for the experience thing again,” he said.
“Advocaat has proved he’s worth a chance – it’s just a matter of whether he wants the job.
To have somebody like that in charge makes a massive differenceMicky Horswill
“He has taken the club to heart, as he showed last night. He has realised the facilities are second to none, the fans are great.
“But he is a pretty shrewd man – I think he would make a good poker player and he holds all the cards. He will realise that even with average investment, we would struggle again next season.
“I think he is in a pretty strong position to get Ellis Short to put his hand in his pocket.”
FA Cup legend Micky Horswill was delighted to see the bond between manager, players and fans that was on display at the Emirates and reckons Advocaat may let his heart rule his head when it comes to deciding whether to stay.
“I think it will be so, so hard for him to walk away, even if he wants to,” he said. “I honestly think it will be so difficult for him to leave now.
“He won’t walk away from something that he obviously loves. He showed the passion he has for the club and that is what sold me.
“To have somebody like that in charge makes a massive difference.
“The fans want somebody in charge they can relate to and who will love their club as much as they do.
“To see Dick standing at the side of the pitch with tears in his eyes...he obviously feels a massive closeness to the club. The relief in the faces of the fans and the manager was exactly the same.
“Ellis Short will have seen all that and will be quite desperate to keep him, I would imagine.
Supporters Association chairman George Forster would like to see Advocaat stay for at least one more season and lay the foundations for long-term stability at the Stadium of Light.
And he harks back to an unlikely era for inspiration.
“Why could we not do something similar to when Howard Wilkinson and Steve Cotterill arrived, have a young man in there with an older manager for a season, someone who can guide him?
George believes it was the choice of personnel, rather than the system itself, which undermined the idea last time.
“Perhaps when Cotterill came, he should have been the manager, rather than Wilkinson who was out of touch.”
If Advocaat does stay, it will be because he has developed a passion for the club: “He is 67 now, and he has nothing to prove,” said George.
“It has to be up to him now but I think it will be a difficult decision.”
George is looking forward to enjoying the last day of the season without the shadow of relegation hanging over the club.
“I think it will be a different kind of game at Chelsea,” he said.
“If I were him, I would say to the players ‘Just go out there, express yourself and enjoy the moment’,” he said.’