So besotted is De Roon with his beloved Sunderland that he uprooted from Gron in the north-east of the Netherlands and bought one of the terraced houses which stand in the shadow of Roker Park. Now that Sunderland are moving home it might not seem such a wise investment, but at least he saw his adopted team of artisans lord it over Gullit's aristocrats yesterday.
Sunderland earned their victory, which leaves them with a seven-point safety cushion, by more than compensating for the patent class gap between the two sets of players with the basic blend of toil and team-work that has served Wimbledon - the previous visitors to Roker - so well. The gulf by the final whistle was three goals in Sunderland's favour, the first time in seven months that they had managed a collective hat-trick on their home patch.
Chelsea have not won in five games since they visited Old Trafford six weeks ago. They had a bum deal of sorts yesterday, although only in so much as Michael Duberry's backside was responsible for the goal which put them behind in the 30th minute. Craig Russell's drive from the right edge of the area would have sailed past the far post had the ball not struck the turning Chelsea defender and looped over the wrong-footed Frode Grodas.
The disparity between the haves of west London and the have-not-a-lots of Wearside was apparent as the teams lined up. Chelsea had Ruud Gullit up front and the luxury of Mark Hughes resting on the bench; Sunderland lined up with Craig Russell as their attacking focal point and Andy Melville, a fellow Welshman at arms alongside Hughes at the Arms Park on Saturday, pressed into double-shift service.
It appeared to bode ill for Sunderland as Chelsea, even without the injured Gianluca Vialli and the suspended Frank Leboeuf, picked holes through the red and white ranks. Their assured approach play, however, came to naught.
One breakthtaking push-and-run passage ended with Duberry sprinting to the byline and delivering a cross his boss ought to have buried with his head. That 15th-minute flourish apart, the only real threat to the home goal came just before the break, when Lionel Perez raced to the edge of his penalty area to stop Dennis Wise burying the clear chance Gianfranco Zola's perfect long ball had afforded him.
Zola has yet to experience victory in the Premiership and his second taste of defeat was on his lips when Sunderland pressed home their advantage three minutes into the second half. Their first goal may have been out of the bottom drawer, but their second was plucked from the top.
Alex Rae swept the ball out to the left to Michael Gray, whose measured delivery into the goalmouth was met with a bulleting diving header by Kevin Ball, Sunderland's skipper and a real captain of midfield industry yesterday. Hughes was summoned from the bench on the hour but within six minutes the game was beyond Chelsea's reach.
Russell may not be blessed with the silken skills of a Gullit but even that master at his peak would have been proud of the finish with which the industrious Sunderland striker buried his side's third goal through Grodas' legs.
Gullit departed with Cockney chants of "What a load of rubbish" ringing in his ears. "We got a lucky break," Peter Reid conceded. Like Roker's resident Dutchman, Sunderland's manager needed no cheering up.
Goals: Duberry own goal (30) 1-0; Ball (48) 2-0; Russell (66) 3-0.
Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Perez; Hall, Melville, Ord, Kubicki; Kelly, Bracewell, Ball, Gray (Agnew, 64); Rae (Bridges, 80); Russell. Substitutes not used: Aiston, Mullin, Preece (gk).
Chelsea (4-3-3): Grodas; Sinclair, Duberry, Clarke, Minto; Burley (Di Matteo, 45), Newton, Wise; Zola, Gullit, Myers (Hughes, 60). Substitutes not used: Phelan, Johnsen, Colgan (gk).
Referee: M Bodenham (East Looe).
Bookings: Sunderland: Ball. Chelsea: Clarke.
Man of the match: Ball.
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