The search for a new head coach at Sunderland is underway. He will be the fifth appointment in two-and-a-half years. Unsurprisingly, the new man will be fighting relegation.
Sunderland, that most combustible of clubs, surrendered a two-goal lead and a position of unusual control to draw with West Ham, but Dick Advocaat, who will walk away from his position at the Stadium of Light this week, knows that only too well. It has been six months of fluctuating emotion. Last season’s high of keeping Sunderland up, after a dogged draw at Arsenal followed three victories, followed by endless frustration.
Frustration at all those around him in the club, above and below. He could not, at times, understand the failure of his playing staff. He could not understand a recruitment policy that failed to recognise how fortunate the Black Cats had been to scrape to safety each season.
Advocaat planned to leave in the summer, and there will be regret he did not do so then, persuaded to return though his wife – and most likely his instincts – told him to head for home.
Instead, he stayed and eight games later there are three miserable points on the board. Sunderland are joint bottom of the table and a bright first half in which Steven Fletcher and Jermain Lens scored was undone when Fabio Borini missed a chance. West Ham scored through Carl Jenkinson in first-half stoppage time and the game changed.
Lens was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 57th minute and then – after Costel Pantilimon had parried a Manuel Lanzini shot – the excellent Dimitri Payet swept in the equaliser.
“I have mixed emotions,” he said. “The way we played today was very positive for everyone. We showed the commitment you need in football. We were a joy to watch.
“We could have been 3-0 or 4-0 up against a good side. Out of one of the few chances they had, they scored to make it 2-1. That goal in the last minute of the half made a big difference. The red card changed the game.”
He was asked about his future. “No, I don’t want to discuss my own future,” he added. “You will hear one way or the other.
“It (my future) has nothing to do with this game. Yes. I have made a decision on my future.
“No I can’t say that (when asked if he would be manager of Sunderland for the next game).”
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic hugged Advocaat when the final whistle went, at 68, perhaps for the last time in his managerial career. “I told him to stay, of course I did,” said Bilic. “It is a great club. The pressure on managers is enormous.
“When you are two-nil down and they have two chances for a third, you are happy with a point.
“We can talk about determination, great spirit, great comeback and great quality. It should have been from the start. I told him I would like him to stay. It would be a pity or a shame if he goes.”
But he still will. He will still follow the path of Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Paolo di Canio and Gus Poyet; men who left the Stadium of Light with the sense of a job that had not been completed.
Lee Congerton, the club’s sporting director, has offered his resignation. It is more change, more upheaval, but the same problem still exists, that of a team not good enough and with a board incapable of improving it.
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Pantilimon; Yedlin, Coates, O’Shea, Jones; M’Vila (Gomez, 90), Cattermole; Lens, Toivonen (Larsson, 83), Borini; Fletcher (Rodwell, 83).
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Adrian; Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid (Collins, 66), Cresswell; Noble (Zarate, 77), Kouyate; Lanzini, Payet, Moses (Jelavic, 58); Sakho.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Man of the match: Payet (West Ham)
Match rating: 5/10Reuse content