Dick Advocaat was sounded out about the Sunderland job three weeks ago

For three weeks Gus Poyet had been living on borrowed time

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The Independent Football

Dick Advocaat was at home in his native Netherlands last Saturday, watching  Sunderland on television, his fury rising at the capitulation of the players in red and white. Three weeks earlier he had been sounded out about the possibility of taking over at the Stadium of Light.

Interestingly it was from Frank Arnesen, not an employee at Sunderland, but a figure coming to enjoy increasing prominence.

For three weeks Gus Poyet had been living on borrowed time and in 45 miserable minutes, during which Sunderland supporters left their own stadium as they conceded four goals to Aston Villa, the Premier League’s lowest goalscorers, Advocaat had both a job and a problem.

By Monday there had been another conversation, this time with Lee Congerton, the club’s sporting director (who worked with Arnesen at Chelsea), during which Poyet took charge of the most pointless of training sessions, and by Tuesday morning, the 67-year-old Dutchman was confirmed as the latest head coach at the club.

“I had a telephone call from Frank Arnesen,” revealed Advocaat, who has his first game in charge at West Ham today. “He said to me three weeks ago, ‘If something happened at Sunderland, would you be interested?’ I said, ‘Yes, I am available.’ But I spoke to nobody at the club until Monday morning. He [Congerton] asked if I was willing to have a meeting with him at that point. That’s the way it happened.


“I was very disappointed [watching the game against Aston Villa]. When they scored, you could see that something is going wrong in their heads. When Aston Villa scored their fourth goal, five players were standing still.

“You can’t think, ‘OK, we have lost the ball, we can walk.’ Did it worry me? No, because that cannot happen with me. I have told them that already.

“I always say to players, ‘Listen, if you do what I want I am a really friendly man – if not, then I am not so nice.’ It is that simple.”

Advocaat, who has managed Rangers, the Netherlands and PSV Eindhoven, said he could call upon Adam Johnson, who has returned to training after being suspended by the club. Johnson will answer bail on 23 April after he was arrested following an allegation of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16.

Advocaat would not answer questions on whether he had the desire to stay as head coach at Sunderland for more than the nine remaining games of this season. He was unveiled at the Academy of Light at 11am yesterday. By chance or design, Poyet gave his first reaction to his dismissal two hours later. He did not reveal if he had known about the shadow of Advocaat, but there is certainly a possibility.

Poyet’s statement, released by the League Managers Association, was a list of his achievements. The survival after the car-crash regime of Paolo Di Canio, reaching Wembley in the Capital One Cup, beating Newcastle regularly and becoming the first team to win a Premier League game at Chelsea when Jose Mourinho was in charge were all mentioned. They were all from last season.

“This season, Sunderland remains the only team not to have conceded to Chelsea and the club has remained outside of the bottom three,” it added.

It is a paltry return. It is also the reality for now, towards the end of an awful campaign, as the television in a Netherlands household confirmed.