A Look At Sunderland’s Managerial Candidate Dick Advocaat


I’ve known about Dick Advocaat since 1994, when he managed the Netherlands at the World Cup in the US.

But it wasn’t until 1998 when the Dutch coach joined Rangers, did I get to see him and his managerial skills up close.

Now in 2015, Advocaat seems favourite to land the Sunderland job, at least until the end of the season.

Known as the ‘Little General‘ the manager is a strict disciplinarian. He’s meticulous with his methods, sometimes to the point of obsession.

He installed a hardline regime at Ibrox where players would be fined if they were late for training or for the team bus. They were also punished if they didn’t wear the clubs suits at the appropriate times. Dick also had a zero tolerance policy for coloured boots which baffled many a player.

His obsession for detail also brings in things like white socks because they are easier to spot. Things like that may be small but to Advocaat they can make a positive difference.

Advocaat puts up with little, to no, nonsense with his players. That kind of management style is dying out as this new breed of footballer resents the older coaches who act more like headmasters than joyful tacticians who are friends with the players.

The sixty-seven year old obviously has had his successes. He won the Dutch league with PSV, five trophies including two league titles during his stay in Scotland and the Russian Premier League and the UEFA Cup with Zenit Saint Petersburg.

But he spent big especially at Rangers and Zenit, that helped when achieving those goals. Those teams were built by Advocaat, who like Louis van Gaal likes a certain type of player and who likes to rebuild squads.

Dick can be very canny at spotting a homegrown player and making them the focus of the team. At Rangers he did it with Barry Ferguson and at Zenit it was Andrei Arshavin.


He spent recklessly at Ibrox but in fairness if someone offers you around £80m to spend, then you are going to spend it.

When he arrived at Rangers, he was refreshing. He was honest and brought a better continental style to Govan. He also helped make the club a better prospect in Europe.

But as time went on things started to fall apart. The squad got fed up with his tough training schedules, they are fine when you are winning but as soon as you start to lose they start to become extremely annoying, very quickly. He fell out with quite a few of the players by this point.

Let’s not forget he left Ibrox because he couldn’t compete with former Sunderland boss Marin O’Neill who was then Celtic gaffer. O’Neill had Advocaat’s number both in the transfer market and tactically.

Advocaat can be very stubborn with his methods. He wants players who only do as they are told and struggles to give them much freedom on the park, unless he has a particular favourite.

His style can often infuriate the fans. I remember bumping into Holland fans in Portugal during Euro 2004. I asked them their thoughts on their coach, Advocaat. They replied that although he got them to the Euros they hated his approach and couldn’t wait to get knocked out and for him to disappear!

At Rangers he played with, now that might be encouraging for supporters of the ‘Black Cats’, but he made sure those wingers would track back as well as get forward. Now many will say that is just sensible but you can ruin a player if you insist he always has his mind on defence, even when his own team have possession. Jorg Albertz hated that ideology and it ruined Neil McCann in my opinion.

Dick doesn’t seem to hang about anywhere for too long, again that probably points at players detesting his methods after a prolonged spell. So a short term deal should suit all parties, if Ellis Short goes for the ‘Little General’.

I wouldn’t expect Sunderland to start attacking if they appoint Advocaat. I’d imagine they’ll be instructed to defend and hope for a counter attack. Obviously the end goal is to stay in the Premier League and Advocaat will want to grind out results rather than try anything too fancy. Which is fine as long as you grind out results and don’t lose points because of letting in the odd goal continuously because you are too cautious.

Dick has disappointed at Russia and Belgium on the international stage. He had decent squads but couldn’t get the desired results. That won’t look great for Sunderland if the board look in greater detail at his CV.

The only role that seems similar to the one on Wearside, that I can think of was Dick’s time in charge of Borussia Monchengladbach. Yes the club stayed in the Bundesliga but only by a point and only after they sacked Advocaat a month before the end of the season.

Listen Advocaat does have pluses. He has a vast amount of experience and wont be phased by Sunderland’s problems. But can he change things for the better? Now that I don’t know.

If they were to bring him in at the Stadium of Light, it could be a bit reminiscent of Fulham hiring Felix Magath last term. Then you look at the Sunderland squad and no player stands out being an Advocaat type.

It would certainly be a gamble and I doubt it would be a long term move. But if he can finish one point ahead of eighteenth spot then his appointment may be seen as a success from the board but I doubt the fans will be excited by the football he brings in.

My gut says stay away.

Just be weary of keeping him on beyond the end of the season even if he keeps Sunderland, his second season could end in the same fashion as Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet’s!

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