SUNDERLAND legend Gary Bennett has hailed “excellent” new head coach Dick Advocaat – and feels last week’s performance at West Ham has left plenty to build on.
The Dutchman – who has been handed a contract until the end of the season – left Upton Park pointless on Saturday after Diafra Sakho’s late winner for the Hammers.
He went with three strikers, which was good, and at times it worked.Gary Bennett
However, there were plenty of signs of encouragement, according to Bennett, particularly the formation, which saw Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe used up-front, with Connor Wickham behind them.
Bennett, who made 443 appearances for Sunderland, told the Echo: “I think Dick Advocaat has been excellent since he took over.
“He comes across as someone who certainly knows what he’s talking about, and his CV proves that as well.
“The West Ham game was better. It was an all-round better performance from Sunderland, although to concede to late in the game was disappointing, after all the hard work the lads put in.
“Sunderland need to build on that performance now.”
Advocaat and Sunderland are now heading into a crunch few weeks, with Newcastle United and Crystal Palace next up at the Stadium of Light.
They will go into those fixtures on the back of seven games without a win in the Premier League, while only Aston Villa have scored fewer than Sunderland’s 23 league goals so far this season.
The new formation could help solve that, says Bennett, who feels the international break will have helped Advocaat get his ideas across on the training ground.
He now says the onus is on the club’s midfielders to ensure chances are created for those ahead of them.
The former defender added: “Everyone was looking forward to the West Ham game to see the shape and formation Advocaat would use.
“He went with three strikers, which was good, and at times it worked.
“I would imagine that during the international break, Advocaat will have been able to tell them exactly what he expects of them so they are fully prepared for their roles.
“It will give the forwards the chance to get a bit more understanding of it.
“Fletcher, Wickham, Defoe and Graham might not have scored a lot of goals between them this season, but over their careers, they’ve all proved they’re very capable of scoring.
“Now it’s a case of making sure the opportunities are provided for them, and then they have to take them.”