David Jones: My Advocaat concerns – and why Sunderland should go for Steve McClaren

Dick Advocaat.
Dick Advocaat.
  • Poyet’s tactics were alarming by the end
Have your say

I LIKE Gus Poyet. I was shouting his name from the rooftops when Sunderland needed a long-term replacement for Paolo Di Canio and I’m really disappointed it hasn’t worked out for him at the Stadium of Light.

I had felt for some time prior to his arrival that Sunderland had to try something different.

RIGHT MAN? Steve McClaren.

RIGHT MAN? Steve McClaren.

Working up and down the country covering games for Sky Sports, Niall Quinn and I had enjoyed long conversations over a beer or two about what it would take to permanently lift the club out of its malaise.

Quinn felt he was on the right track with Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill after the firebrand that was Roy Keane; solid, reliable types with great experience, Brits who knew what it took to succeed in the Premier League.

After Bruce, O’Neill was the answer to all of our prayers, but even one of our own couldn’t stop the slump.

The short, sharp, shock management from Paolo Di Canio was never going to be sustainable, but I felt the club’s hierarchy were on to something.

While others might be reassured by the experience on Advocaat’s CV, I’m startled by the number of jobs he’s had – 10 in the last 10 years!

How to fix the perennial problem of attracting players good enough to make progress in the Premier League without having to bankrupt the club in the process?

We needed to find a coach who had a different plan, who could unearth talent from outside the usual sources and then make the team greater than the sum of their parts, but in truth – under Poyet – Sunderland were rarely that.

Poyet was never able to accelerate the change he felt the team needed to improve.

Too many players had already come and gone for the club to pursue that route again.

But his tactics, which seemed to work when faced with the threat of the league’s best, fell apart against the worst, especially at home when at times Poyet’s team seemed alarmingly one paced and toothless.

He spoke with contempt about the kick and rush tactics of teams of old, when it seemed to all around him that urgency was exactly what his side was lacking.

Confidence was draining from players and fans.

As I wrote last week, at no point did I think Sunderland would beat a resurgent Aston Villa, but in no way did I suspect the surrender would be quite as stark.

The best thing about this season has been the fans. Incredibly given all they’ve been served up, there was almost 46,000 on Saturday, and it was only fitting they would have the final say on Poyet’s future.

It was the right time for Gus to go and I suspect he knew it.

Dick Advocaat wouldn’t have been my choice, but I utterly concur with the club’s decision not to look beyond the next nine games.

While others might be reassured by the experience on Advocaat’s CV, I’m startled by the number of jobs he’s had – 10 in the last 10 years!

But maybe short term impact is his speciality.

Now is not for the time for rebuilding – it’s time to go back to basics.

The players’ brains are clearly scrambled. Advocaat must simplify their instructions and set the players free, allow them to do what they know best, ask them to compete and fight for the shirt just as Poyet did when he first picked up the broken baton from Di Canio 18 months ago.

But whether Sunderland survive or not – and I realise for the owner there are an awful lot of millions at stake – this process of chopping and changing has to stop.

As I told guests at the League Managers Association President’s dinner in London last week, choosing a manager is the most important decision and also the hardest that football clubs have to make.

There is no secret formula, which is why 40 managers have left their jobs this season across four divisions, but why would you limit your choice to those people you know?

By handing Advocaat a nine-game deal, Sunderland have given themselves time to undergo a thorough search to find the very best man for the job.

Scour Europe, look at the best coaches in Germany where – beyond the biggest clubs – the game seems to be moving rapidly ahead of ours.

If I was in the Sunderland boardroom that’s the conversation I would be having with Ellis Short right now.

Having said all that, I think the ideal candidate is in front of our noses.

An astute coach, equipped with experience of European football, hardened by his time as an international manager, and familiar with the particular demands of north east football fans.

Sadly, I’m told Steve McClaren won’t be leaving Derby County any time soon.

See this as an opportunity for our great club, not a crisis.

And as always ... keep the faith.

H Niall Quinn will be my guest for live coverage of Sunderland’s game at West Ham from 4.45pm on Saturday on Sky Sports One.