DICK Advocaat conceived of a plan to bring the best out of Connor Wickham, before the ink was even dry on his short-term contract at Sunderland.
Wickham has predominantly found himself out of position this season, with the 22-year-old largely used in a wide role by ex-boss Gus Poyet, while only sporadically being used as a central striker.
Like his predecessor, new head coach Advocaat has opted against asking Wickham to lead the line during his two games at the helm.
However, there has been a significant upturn in performances, with Wickham working well in the hole behind the two strikers at West Ham three weeks ago, and then menacing Newcastle from an inside forward role last Sunday.
Advocaat had watched several hours of video footage of Sunderland prior to being parachuted in for the last nine games, and Wickham has revealed that the ex-Dutchman immediately landed upon the idea of using him in a deeper position.
Wickham told the Gazette: “The manager asked me on the first day he came in, whether I could play in that role.
The manager asked me on the first day he came in, whether I could play in that role.Connor Wickham
“It’s something if I’m going to say yes to, I’ve got to be able to do it!
“I’ve been in the team pretty much all season, consistently in there, but I’ve been moved around a bit.
“But that’s part of the job. As a forward, you should be able to play in any attacking role.
“So for me, it’s not been too bad.”
Wickham’s ‘first day at school’ conversation with Advocaat has not set a precedent over lengthy, cozy chats with the 67-year-old.
Advocaat’s nickname is “The Little General” for a reason; a disciplined, no-nonsense approach where every player is aware of their remit in the side.
But while Sunderland’s players may not have had lengthy individual talks with the ex-Rangers boss, Wickham believes there is still a positive man-management aspect to the new regime.
“I’ve not spoken to him as much as sitting down with him in his office for a one-on-one,” he added.
“But he’s got very good man-management.
“He pulls players on the quiet, on the down low, and that’s good for the players to know they can speak to him.
“His staff are brilliant as well. You can speak to any of them with confidence and you know you’re not going to be frowned upon or looked down upon if you have a difference of opinion.
“The boys are responding well to his tactics and things are looking positive.”