Sunderland keep Advocaat after owner’s persistence

Dick Advocaat gestures on the touchline against West Ham United. Picture: PA
Dick Advocaat gestures on the touchline against West Ham United. Picture: PA
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Dick Advocaat changed his mind over returning to Sunderland after owner Ellis Short refused to leave him alone.

The 67-year-old reluctantly turned down the offer of an extended stay on Wearside days after the Barclays Premier League season drew to a close after his successful mission to preserve the Black Cats’ top-flight status.

However, Texan businessman Short simply would not accept no for an answer and ultimately his persistence paid off.

Advocaat, who signed a one-year deal, told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: “The club kept calling. The owner would not let go. They think I’m still fit enough and personally, I also feel that I am still fine. And it’s a wonderful club.”

The former Rangers boss was drafted in to replace Gus Poyet in March with the club entrenched in a second successive fight for Premier League survival, and with only nine games in which to turn things around.

But victory over derby rivals Newcastle in his second match set the ball rolling and in total his team collected 12 from a possible 27 points, easing themselves across the finishing line with a game to spare after a goalless draw at Arsenal.

Advocaat’s reward was to be offered an extended deal before the final-day trip to Chelsea, but after careful consideration – and not least, discussing the situation with his wife after promising his brief spell in England would be his last job in club management – he decided to opt for retirement.

However, it was a decision which barely lasted a week as Short finally got his man.

The American said: “Dick’s credentials in football are top-class and we saw what an 
impact his vast knowledge and experience had on our team and the club as a whole in just two months. Sunderland fans took him to their hearts and so did everyone at the club, so we are absolutely thrilled that he will be here longer term.”

Sunderland had turned to alternative candidates after Advocaat’s initial response, but sporting director Lee Congerton revealed they never gave up hope of persuading him to think again.

He said: “Dick was always our number one choice and we were determined we weren’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer.

“I have been in constant contact with him over the last two weeks and I’m absolutely delighted that he has agreed to return. In just a short space of time, he has bought into the club wholeheartedly and understands exactly what we need now in order to move forward.

“We have a lot of work to do to prepare for the season ahead, and that starts in earnest now.”

Advocaat has voiced the opinion that up to half a dozen quality signings would be required this summer to avoid a repeat of last season’s struggles, and he has been assured that money will be spent this summer in a bid to address the deficiencies of the squad he inherited from Poyet.

But while there is hard work to be done before a ball is kicked in earnest, he is confident he has now made the right decision.

He said: “After a lot of discussions with Ellis and Lee, they convinced me that I am the right man for the club.

“It was a great feeling to be part of Sunderland in the last few months.

“The experience was something very special and after talking with Lee, Ellis and of course my family, we all agree it is the right decision.”