Dick Advocaat will have a head-start on his return to Sunderland by immediately earning the backing of the Black Cats squad, believes former favourite Martin Smith.
Advocaat’s U-turn over extending his Sunderland tenure has ended the club’s desperate need for a fresh head coach, and provided the platform to boost the squad with the appropriate signings to end the cycle of scrapes with relegation.
Ex-Sunderland winger Smith expects some significant investment from the Black Cats this summer after Advocaat agreed to pen a fresh one-year contract at the Stadium of Light.
But he believes it is just as important that Advocaat will have the existing players onside, rather than a new head coach starting afresh with the squad.
“It’s more than half the battle to get the players onside,” said Smith.
“I know when managers are there, it is easy for players to say they love them and want them to stay.
“But even when he left, they were still saying the same thing about wanting him back.
“He knows the players and knows if he needs to get rid of any bad apples.
“There are obviously a couple of positions that need addressing, but I am sure that has been discussed already.
“I don’t think he would have accepted the job unless he knew there would be some investment.”
Sunderland had been investigating possible contingency options for Advocaat since the Dutchman decided to go ahead with his plans to retire from club management last week.
But none of the potential alternatives had convinced either the club or supporters, and Smith believes Sunderland have snared the best possible option to provide some stability after three successive battles against the drop.
“It is going to be in safe hands now with someone who wants to be there,” he said.
“Advocaat can put stuff in place and if things go well, you never know he might extend his stay.
“I think most of the fans will be happy after he did enough at the end of last season to show the players are behind him.
“It’s a lot better than the alternatives. There were a lot of names out there that sounded good, but no-one really knew a lot about them.
“I don’t think the ones available in England were going to leave their clubs.
“Now they’ve got someone who knows the job and is not going to be surprised by the size of the club.
“He knows the players and knows the ones he wants to get rid of.
“The last two years with Gus Poyet and Paolo Di Canio have been with a nagging doubt at the back of your mind over how things were going to go.
“There’s no guarantee it will work with Dick Advocaat, but it won’t be for a want of trying.”