Revealed: The story behind Dick Advocaat’s exit from Sunderland

Dirk Advocaat.
Dirk Advocaat.

Cradling a cup of instant coffee from the Bournemouth press room, Dick Advocaat stared into space in the corridors of a deserted Dean Court.

He had just witnessed Sunderland’s familiar failings re-emerge in a suicidal collapse, just as he suspected that the Black Cats had turned a corner.

The roots for Advocaat’s departure – just four months after his U-turn over returning to Wearside – were sown during the summer in the transfer market.

Just 24 hours later the whispers in football circles began – Lee Congerton was going after growing sick and tired of Sunderland’s mess, and Advocaat would not be far behind him.

That Bournemouth defeat proved to be the beginning of the end; the final straw which persuaded Advocaat that he was not the right man anymore to guide this club through yet another tour of the relegation battle no man’s land.

The routine three-goal defeats to both Manchester clubs were merely final nails in the coffin; delaying the inevitable until the two-week international break provided an opportunity for change.

Prior to that, Sunderland had even been exploring the possibility of extending Advocaat’s contract by another year.

Yes, that was only three or four weeks ago.

But while the loss on the south coast was fatal, the roots for Advocaat’s departure – just four months after his U-turn over returning to Wearside – were sown during the summer in the transfer market.

Advocaat had made his position clear at the end of last season when he declared Sunderland needed six “quality” signings who immediately improved the starting XI.

There were eight new arrivals, but how many genuinely fell into that bracket? Three? Four?

With a limited budget, plus a host of unwanted players clogging up the wage bill, Advocaat and Congerton were forced to bring in fresh faces who were simply available, rather than those they necessarily needed.

It wasn’t a case of picking up new recruits for a specific purpose. The peanuts (relatively speaking) in the coffers forced a policy of hoovering up cast-offs from other clubs.

Those players didn’t even have the chance to knock off the rust from the inactivity at their former clubs either.

Signing Fabio Borini, Yann M’Vila and Ola Toivonen so late in the window proved fatal to Sunderland’s hopes of startinng the season on the front foot. Advocaat had wanted those positions strengthened by the start of July, NOT the end of August.

That delay continued to grate on the 68-year-old.

Neither was Advocaat convinced by some of those emergency signings.

Just 72 hours before the capture of Borini, Advocaat had harboured serious reservations over the Italian.

Advocaat wanted a physical targetman to lead the line, not a player who arguably performs better as an inside forward and one who had clearly been keeping his options open over his next move.

Similarly, Advocaat made a point of saying of how little he had seen of deadline day capture DeAndre Yedlin.

Given that transfer business, should Advocaat have come back?

Certainly, he should have been given an assurance from Short over how much there was to spend, not just a promise of how many signings there would be.

Yet Advocaat had caught the bug from his nine-game spell at the end of last season. Even after a career which had seen him lift titles and manage in World Cups, he had allowed himself to fall in love with Sunderland.

He was attracted by the idea of leaving a legacy and turning around the fortunes of a club that struggled on an annual basis.

The dedication of Sunderland fans in particular, staggered him.

Both the ex-Rangers boss, plus assistant Zelkjo Petrovic, regularly remarked about the support from the terraces and the followings on the road.

Those tears at Arsenal at the end of last season, or again on Saturday, were not simply down to Advocaat’s management career reaching a conclusion.

That was real, genuine emotion for this club from one of the most decorated and experienced managers in world football.

Even that strength of feeling couldn’t persuade Advocaat to remain at the helm though.

His departure leaves Sunderland in an utter mess.

If/when Congerton departs, there isn’t anyone in the club’s hierarchy who is a ‘football’ person.

The last time that occurred, Ellis Short and Margaret Byrne appointed Paolo Di Canio....

After appointing five managers in four years, Sunderland’s reputation in football circles has already gone too. Other than the supporters, there’s not a lot of redeeming features at present.

What managers of any calibre are going to touch a club that has become a graveyard for bosses over the last four years?

Don’t forget, Steve Bruce was the last Sunderland manager to complete a full season.

If the director of football position is vacant, then it will make Sam Allardyce a firm favourite for the position and he obviously has the appeal of his record of keeping clubs in the Premier League.

Other than Allardyce, Sunderland will have to take their pick from those in charge in the Championship, those out of work and desperate to get back in management, or perhaps a wild card from overseas.

That’s far from ideal for the latest Sunderland escape mission.

But this is a mess of Sunderland’s own making.

Fans know that Advocaat is not the prime culprit for Sunderland’s troubles.

He should be fondly remembered accordingly; the guy who inherited a free-falling side and kept it in the Premier League.

Advocaat simply needed more of a helping hand to build on that escape mission this time around.