DICK Advocaat has received a crash-course in Sunderland’s squad during the first 24 hours of his Black Cats tenure.
Advocaat wasted no time in beginning his task of keeping Sunderland in the Premier League after he was confirmed as the club’s head coach for the final nine games of the season.
The 67-year-old immediately took charge of training yesterday morning after arriving in the early hours at the Academy of Light to begin work.
He then spent the afternoon and evening in meetings with sporting director Lee Congerton, academy director Ged McNamee and development coach Paul Bracewell, who helped to bring him up to speed with the situation at the club.
While Advocaat boasts huge amounts of experience in a 35-year managerial career, he will make his debut in the Premier League at West Ham this weekend, with Sunderland’s existing staff helping to fill in the gaps in his knowledge.
The appointment of ex-Sunderland midfielder Bracewell as an assistant to Advocaat is particularly significant.
Watmore tellingly trained with the rest of the first-team squad yesterday and could be involved at West Ham.
Bracewell, who will join first-team coach and goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker in Advocaat’s backroom team, knows the strengths and weaknesses of the youngsters at Sunderland after spending the last two years working with the Under-18 and U21 squads.
Despite his squad reaching the bare bones, Gus Poyet chose to select three defenders on the bench for his final game at the helm against Aston Villa last weekend, rather than include anyone from the U21 squad.
Even winger Duncan Watmore, who has been the stand-out figure in the development squad this season, missed out, despite Ricky Alvarez being the only wideman available to Poyet.
However, despite playing 45 minutes for the U21s in Monday night’s defeat at Leicester, Watmore tellingly trained with the rest of the first-team squad yesterday and could be involved at West Ham.
Advocaat is not renowned for bringing on young players, but with Emanuele Giaccherini and Will Buckley injured, and Adam Johnson still suspended by Sunderland – albeit the club are “reviewing” the situation – the former Holland manager needs every available option.
Congerton and chairman Ellis Short’s long-term plan is to have a stable club that can regularly produce homegrown players for the first-team squad.
But Sunderland’s only immediate aim is to remain in the Premier League, with Advocaat handed a short-term deal to achieve that remit.
“Dick has an incredible CV and vast experience of managing at the very highest level,” said Short.
“We have one aim only now – to climb the table and everyone is fully focused on the task ahead of us.”
Advocaat is expected to depart in the summer, regardless of whether he is successful in keeping Sunderland in the Premier League.
There was always likely to be a new man at the helm for next season, with Poyet earmarked to part company with Sunderland, before his exit was fast-tracked.
As the Gazette reported yesterday, Real Madrid assistant manager Paul Clement is understood to be the leading contender to take charge in the long-term, having previously worked with Congerton at Chelsea.
West Ham boss and ex-Sunderland defender Sam Allardyce is also thought to be a possibility, with his contract at Upton Park expiring in the summer.