The commitment of Sunderland’s players has been the most satisfying element of the last two months for Dick Advocaat.
Despite already sealing Premier League survival, Sunderland produced an excellent display on the final day of the season at champions Chelsea yesterday, albeit Jose Mourinho’s side recovered from going a goal down to triumph 3-1.
From day one, we were talking about possession games and what we had to do organisational wise – not one player or two players, all 11 players, otherwise we take them outDick Advocaat
There was no drop in standards from Advocaat’s side, who could – and perhaps should – have come away with something from their efforts.
But that performance epitomised the improvements and greater commitment seen under Advocaat, which the ex-Holland manager delighted by the response he has seen from the players.
Advocaat said: “The commitment from the boys has been really great.
“They were really up for the job.
“From day one, we were talking about possession games and what we had to do organisational wise – not one player or two players, all 11 players, otherwise we take them out.
“But they’ve responded to that.”
Steven Fletcher’s first goal in seven months put Sunderland ahead, with the Black Cats enjoying several further opportunities both before and after Diego Costa equalised from the penalty spot for Chelsea.
Fletcher, himself, spurned a free header from eight yards just seconds after Chelsea had gone ahead with 20 minutes to go.
Sunderland paid the price, with ex-Newcastle loanee Loic Remy netting a brace – both arriving after some suspect goalkeeping from Vito Mannone.
“I don’t think there was any need to lose 3-1 because we had as many opportunities to score,” added Advocaat.
“But, in the end, you know Chelsea have the better players, the better skills.
“For me, it was important to see a team free of relegation fear and they were not scared to do something.
“Yes, I was disappointed with some of the goals conceded.
“We had the better chances, but, with £30million players, they have the skill.
“We need six chances to score and they need two chances, and that’s why they are the champions.”