Graeme Atkinson: Sunderland came so close to keeping the perfect man to take them forward

Dick Advocaat.
Dick Advocaat.
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So after years of trying, we actually came close to finding, and then more importantly keeping, the perfect man to take SAFC forward.

We now know that the Little General, Dick Advocaat, declined a generous offer from Short to maintain his relationship with the club for longer than the 9 games he initially had in charge.

However, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, Short and Congerton should be thankful for what is now startlingly obvious.

Advocaat has created the template for whoever takes the job long-term even if he won’t take on the role himself.

Experience instead of potential:

We’ve gone down the route of trying managers with so called potential and frankly it’s met with mixed results. We’ve had plenty of victories over them down the road and even a Wembley final, but ultimately the frequent dalliances with relegation took its toll on those in charge and they paid the price.

We’ve tried experience too in fairness, but maybe the wrong sort.

Advocaat had a wealth of experience and here’s the distinguishing factor, he coached the Dutch national side, the Russian national side and also managed in the Bundesliga as well as at big Russian clubs like Zenit.

Dick has competed at a top competitive level over a sustained period of time without ever being relegated, (I’m looking at you Steve Bruce).

When things take a turn for the worse, they inevitable always do, you need someone who gives off an aura of being unfazed by it all.

Previous managers have looked, at times, like the pressure was really getting far too much for them, even if they’ve said the right things, and that impacts on the players.

Adapt to the existing squad:

Poyet was brave. He tried to embed a style of play at Sunderland which was truly revolutionary for our team. This brand of football is becoming more popular but frankly we just don’t have the personnel to make it effective.

When the team is under pressure during a game and Poyet wants it rolled out from the back, it’s always going to end in tears.

The players simply couldn’t fully adapt to his style and Poyet appeared just as reluctant to adapt to theirs. There was little, to no, compromise.

Advocaat instantly seemed to understand the strengths and weakness of the squad and what’s more was quick to realise when players weren’t picking up on his instructions during a game.

Work with the Director of Football:

This is the model Short wants to stick with. It’s simple really but a concept that seemed lost on Di Canio and Poyet. It always seemed that their relationships with De Fanti and Congerton respectively was fragile, at best.

Perhaps there was some argument for Di Canio to have issue with the players De Fanti brought to SAFC.

However, the odd jibe and cryptic statement in the press from Di Canio alluded to the fact he simply wasn’t happy with the calibre of players being recruited and that has to impact on the confidence of the squad.

Advocaat already knew Congerton and because of that existing relationship there instantly appeared to be a great deal of mutual trust and respect.

You could never imagine Advocaat would be happy being given players and told to get on with it.

However, it seemed from the outside at least, there would have been much more of a willingness to have a harmonious partnership in respect of transfer activity had Advocaat stayed on.

Thanks to Dick, even though he’s decided not to sign long term, he must have surely narrowed down the search for Short and Congerton significantly.

In doing so he’s also given us hope that we’ve finally found that elusive formula, a recipe for success at SAFC.

* This article was sent into the Echo by a reader for our new Black Cats eight-page supplement, titled The Roar! - which will be in the paper every Wednesday.

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