AFTER Dick Advocaat got the better of John Carver as Sunderland beat Newcastle United 1-0 on Sunday, we look at how the two head coaches fared in their first Wear-Tyne derby.
THE key to Sunderland winning this game was confidence.
And the key to gaining that confidence was to start well.
In both regards, Advocaat has to take enormous credit.
The Dutchman accentuated every positive – even pointing out to the players how much the fans were behind them when they arrived at the Stadium of Light, despite the Aston Villa defeat last time around.
It was crucial that Sunderland players fed off that positivity from the supporters rather than being cowed by their expectation.
And to help them, Advocaat opted for a bold, positive formation intended to put the players on the front foot from the start with three attackers in Jermaine Defoe, Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher given freedom to take the game to the Magpies.
He made three changes to the side which lost to West Ham United in his opening game in charge.
With Wes Brown injured, he opted for the experience of Santiago Vergini over the rawness of Sebastian Coates in the centre of defence and was rewarded for that.
He was bold in bringing Billy Jones in at right-back, despite the defender’s lengthy absence through injury. And while the recall of Lee Cattermole was a no-brainer, the skipper revelled in being the centre of a midfield three.
The decision not to throw on derby talisman Adam Johnson from the start, ultimately paid off, with the former England man giving his side a lift when he arrived in the dying stages.
On the touchline, Advocaat’s demeanour was very businesslike, a model of composure.
Not for him the theatrics of a Di Canio or the demonstrativeness of Poyet.
He was out in his technical area when he felt he needed to be, and he was back in his dug-out when he felt he didn’t.
It is true that in the end only a Defoe wonder-goal separated the two sides.
But in terms of overall performances there was an absolute gulf between the two teams.
This was the most positive first-half performance seen from Sunderland at the Stadium of Light all season and it came in the most high-pressured fixture at all.
Advocaat has to take responsibility for that.
There wasn’t a single shrinking violet in sight in his side and the contrast in body language between Sunderland’s players in this game, compared to the Villa game, could hardly have been more dramatic.
It is of course the earliest of days.
But the signs are from the derby that the new head coach has secured from his players the two fundamental cornerstones on which any successful club management is built: trust, and respect.
IN his post-match Press conference, John Carver said that he wasn’t going to make any excuses for the derby defeat.
Then he did.
Take your pick, from Tim Krul’s food-poisoning, to Daryl Janmaat’s potential calf tear; from suspended players (Coloccini, Cisse), lung-collapses (De Jong) to unexpected operations (Cheick Tiote), the list went on.
“I must have run over, and this is quite fitting, 10 Black Cats, given the luck I’ve had!” he moaned.
And to a certain extent, Carver had a point.
There was no getting away from the fact that the Newcastle manager had a very limited hand to play for the game, especially when it came to fielding a very much thrown together back-four.
What couldn’t be excused though was the spirit with which that team played, or the fact that the makeshift back-four was the only thing which kept Newcastle in the game all afternoon!
Having denied last month that, mentally, Newcastle’s players were already wearing flip-flops in preparation for the summer, he was forced to concede they were completely second-best in the opening 45 minutes of the most important fixture of all.
While the back-four were tested and largely came through, Newcastle barely figured as a force further upfield.
The midfield looked sluggish and lacked any incisiveness, while skipper Moussa Sissoko offered little in the way of inspiration.
Remy Cabella was too deep while Yoan Gouffran and Sammy Ameobi were utterly ineffectual.
In attack, Newcastle lacked confidence and conviction and yet Carver made only two substitutions in the game, and those relatively late on.
It is no surprise on this evidence that the Magpies have won only two of their 13 games under Carver.
Newcastle improved after the half-time team talk and Carver made substitutions but only two and Adam Armstrong seemed to come on only as an afterthought late in the game.
Carver himself, who has cut a surly, sour-faced figure behind Alan Pardew in recent derbies, reined in his natural passion when it came to being the man in charge of Newcastle for this fixture – save for one moment, when he took issue with a ball-boy.
Overall, it has to be acknowledged that the Newcastle manager could do little about the circumstances which deprived him of so many key players and gave him such a challenging hand to play.
For that at least, he was blameless.
For his side’s dreadful performance overall though, for their embarrassing lack of passion or self-belief, for their failure to show quality or conviction the buck stops with him, he has to carry the can.