Dick Advocaat has been appointed by Sunderland for the final nine games of their season. Here's what he will need to address...
1. Win the derby
However dire things have been in recent seasons for Sunderland, they have established an unprecedented dominance in the Tyne-Wear derby. The new man has the perfect opportunity to create momentum with a win against Newcastle in what will be his first home game in charge, on 22 March.
Newcastle are riddled with problems of their own, without a permanent head coach, a centre-forward or their captain. The last two Sunderland managers, Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet, both discovered the winning formula against the club’s arch-rivals and the need to win is even greater, given the perilous Premier League position.
2. Play on the front foot
Here are some stats: Two wins in the league at home all season. One league win in 2015. Eight games in which Sunderland have failed to score at home. Sixteen games in which Sunderland have not scored. Twenty-three goals scored in the Premier League all season, the division’s second worst.
That should paint a picture of how miserable and joyless a campaign this has been. Poyet crushed the life out of his side and he was crushing the life out of the club’s support – witness the mass evacuation during the first half on Saturday. Sunderland became unwatchable. Adding flair, being more positive, trying to actually win games; these elements are imperative for the new man.
3. Feed Defoe
Jermain Defoe has still got goals in him but Poyet’s negativity meant he was starved of service. The former England striker became an isolated figure in a team that created precious little.
Putting a strike partner beside him would be a major step in the right direction. Poyet rotated Steven Fletcher, Connor Wickham and even Danny Graham, usually in a wide left position in which no centre-forward enjoys playing.
Aston Villa’s new manager, Tim Sherwood, galvanised Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor to such an extent that they smashed four past Sunderland on Saturday. The new man at the Stadium of Light needs to hugely improve the service to his goalscorers, and mainly Defoe.
The next Sunderland manager contenders
The next Sunderland manager contenders
1/7 Dick Advocaat (6/5)
The well-travelled Dutchman is available after leaving his post as Serbia manager last year and would provide an experienced head after the relative novices of Di Canio and Poyet. The 67-year-old's glory days came in the 90s as he won titles in Holland and Scotland but he led Zenit St Petersburg to the UEFA Cup in 2008. He has twice managed his country as well as South Korea and the Serbs and would bring some gravitas to the position.
2/7 Sam Allardyce (8/1)
Another former Sunderland player, although only for a single season, Allardyce is yet to be offered a new deal at West Ham and will be out of contract in the summer. The 60-year-old has never really managed to win over the Hammers faithful despite leading them to promotion and respectability in the Premier League and a move away from east London may appeal. But it is doubtful West Ham would allow him to leave before the end of the season and there is also the small matter of an eight-month spell in charge of Newcastle.
3/7 Michael Laudrup (10/1)
The Dane enjoyed a largely successful spell at Swansea, guiding them to the League Cup in 2013, after earning many plaudits in his home country and Spain. The former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder left south Wales under a cloud in February of 2014 and is currently managing Qatari outfit Lekhwiya. He was recently linked with the QPR job but dismissed those reports and his free-flowing style of football would likely prove popular with Black Cats' supporters.
4/7 Steve McClaren (10/1)
Currently head coach at Derby. The former England manager also had a successful spell at Middlesbrough, when he guided them to the Uefa Cup final in 2006.
5/7 Glenn Hoddle (25/1)
Has not managed since leaving Wolves in 2006 but is still well respected in coaching circles and always seems to be in the frame when jobs become available. The 57-year-old former England boss was appointed as a coach at QPR in August but left after Harry Redknapp's departure in February and is currently working as a pundit. Hoddle has enjoyed some success in the Premier League with Chelsea, Tottenham and Southampton but it is unclear whether a relegation battle would appeal.
6/7 Harry Redknapp (25/1)
Resigned as QPR manger in February saying that he could not give '100%' with a knee operation imminent.
7/7 Kevin Ball
Ball could take caretaker charge but his prospects of landing the job permanently look slim after he was moved away from his development job and into an ambassadorial role by the club's hierarchy. A popular figure with the fans after a distinguished nine-year playing spell on Wearside, he has acted as caretaker twice before after the sackings of Mick McCarthy and Paolo Di Canio.
4. Win at home
The paucity of entertainment Poyet produced in his team is best highlighted by how grim Sunderland were at home. Two victories, against Burnley and Stoke, is a shocking record to carry into the middle of March.
Sunderland’s supporters deserve praise for putting up with such poor football for so long. There were almost 46,000 in the ground on Saturday, at least when the game started. The Stadium of Light has gone through periods where it has been a fortress for the home side. It feels nothing of the sort and the new man must rediscover that key, missing ingredient.
5. Don’t criticise the support
Poyet’s time at Sunderland was coming to an end the moment he started criticising the club’s own supporters.
The Uruguayan always seemed to be unhappy about some element of the club, but the move to have a go at fans after they encouraged the team to be more positive and try to beat Queen’s Park Rangers was the beginning of the end.
It was interesting that Roy Keane was at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Keane had an excellent relationship with the fans, as Poyet did last season. Eroding that left Poyet with nowhere to go once his record this season was scrutinised.
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