FORGOTTEN MAN Sebastian Coates has deserved his chance in the Sunderland starting line-up, believes Dick Advocaat.
Coates started only his fourth Premier League game for Sunderland in last weekend’s draw at Stoke City and responded with a committed display in central defence.
Advocaat opted to drop Coates’ fellow South American Santiago Vergini after the Argentine’s error-strewn display against Crystal Palace a fortnight earlier, with the on-loan Liverpool man in line to keep his place in today’s crunch clash against Southampton.
And head coach Advocaat says Coates had responded well to his training methods during his seven weeks at the helm, and with veteran centre-half Wes Brown still sidelined through injury, was happy to turn to the Uruguayan.
He said: “He’s deserved his chance.
“I could see it coming in training because we’ve been giving everyone attention to see what they need.
“I have seen him react to that, as have the majority of the squad.
“It was not too much of a danger to change it.”
While Coates should keep his place against the Saints, Advocaat is expected to make changes to his starting XI.
Danny Graham is in contention to make his first start under Advocaat in place of Will Buckley – a change which the ex-Holland manager made at half-time against Stoke – while Seb Larsson returns after a two-match ban.
“We don’t have enough midfielders with an excellent shot,” said Advocaat.
“He (Larsson) can damage the opposition from that position.
“We need one or two players from midfield to do something, as well as the players up front.
“He’s a player who can score a goal.”
Anything less than victory against Southampton may prove fatal to Sunderland’s survival hopes, with the Black Cats realistically requiring another six points from the last five games, which include trips to Chelsea and Arsenal.
But Advocaat believes his players will have received a confidence boost from the second half at Stoke – a performance which he says was good as anything they have produced this season.
“I still have the feeling that everyone is giving everything they have to stay in the league,” he added.
“If not, then I’ll take them out.
“As I said when I arrived here, I’ve watched a lot of games from before.
“But I think that was the best half with the way they played.
“We pressurised, created chances, won every second ball.
“That was the best football we’ve produced so far in the whole season.
“That must give them a better feeling and we see that back at the training ground.”