IT SEEMED unlikely just two weeks ago, but Sunderland are surprisingly close to sealing their Premier League future.
If they do so, it could well be with two games to spare.
Defoe’s workrate from the left has been superb.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
We all know that it would be typical of Sunderland to dive back into the quicksand after hauling themselves out of it.
A lot of credit has to go to Dick Advocaat.
He’s been pragmatic in his approach since arriving in March, adopting a more direct style in an attempt to make more chances happen.
We’ve seen more bodies in the box, and it seems the ball is finally starting to break nicely to players in red and white; that’s been long overdue.
Jermain Defoe has been playing from the left, much to the confusion of some pundits.
Every time he defends, there’s always a moan about the fact he should be standing in the six-yard box waiting for the ball to land square on his right foot.
Unfortunately, he isn’t that player any more, and he can’t be that player for Sunderland.
Defoe’s workrate from the left has been superb. His defensive effort and desire to battle for the team is more important to us than goal hanging.
We’ve criticised Defoe on the podcast, but under Advocaat it’s very difficult to criticise the former England man.
Even when he’s been poor in games, he’s kept going. You need that in a dogfight.
It was nice to see the ball deflect in off Jermain against Everton.
That was the reward for his hard work. It also showed that our wider forwards aren’t just stuck out on the wings.
He and Wickham will drift infield and join in, playing off an in-form Danny Graham.
When Advocaat started using this 4-3-3 it looked clunky. After a few games it’s looking a bit smoother.
It’s never going to be pretty with the players we’ve got our disposal, but at this stage pretty isn’t what matters, it’s results.
There’s more than one way to win a football match, and Sunderland have found a way.
It’s not luck, it hasn’t been stumbled across. They’ve worked on a plan and now it’s beginning to be executed properly.
If Sunderland complete the job tomorrow, there will be questions about Advocaat’s future.
He must be tempted by the job,but in my opinion there’d be no real value in taking it from his perspective.
It’s also been suggested he stays and we bring in a number two who will become the head coach after a year or so.
It’s a good idea in principle, but the two would have to have the same style, outlook and approach for it to work.
We know from experience, Wilkinson and Cotterill, that it might not go to plan.
I like Dick Advocaat, his dry wit, his seemingly no nonsense approach to everything.
But no matter what happens this season, I think we should thank him and send him on his way to a well-deserved retirement.
– Gareth Barker
The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Dick Advocaat. You can be stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.