Advocaat hopes to stir Sunderland spirit in new Dutch dogfight

Dick Advocaat: Sunderland chief

Geoff Brown of take a look at how Dick Advocaat’s latest chapter in management is turning into his toughest assignment yet. Sunderland fans will relate….

There is one reason above all others that the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and countless others are driven to win trophy after trophy: to repeatedly experience the feeling of triumph.

So why has one manager who has won multiple league titles in different countries, including the exceptionally rare feat of a major European trophy with a club from Eastern Europe, decided to finish his career opting for a club rock bottom of their league table?

Dick Advocaat will be endearingly remembered in May 2015 when he battled the elements of impending relegation, the unbearable brunt of failure continually on the horizon, to finally lead Sunderland to the ecstasy of Premier League survival. Dutch tear drops flooded the Emirates that day in scenes that will accompany memorabilia of famous managerial reactions to achieving relegation-evading nirvana.

Such overt outpouring of relief must surely have contributed to Advocaat’s decision to take on the reigns at Sparta Rotterdam in December when the Dutch club were firmly rooted to the foot of the Eredivisie. Who knows what his thought processes consisted of, but maybe something along the lines of ‘Is the evasion of relegation from a position of hopelessness an experience more precious, more enjoyable even, than winning a championship?’

Sunderland fans: Demand raw passion from their team

70-year old Advocaat is one of the few managers who has experienced both. Guardiola, Mourinho and countless other serial winners will never experience opposite ends of the football spectrum.

But this challenge at Sparta Rotterdam is proving even tougher than his Sunderland extravaganza. Six losses from eight league games since Advocaat took over has left them six points adrift of safety with just nine games remaining.

“We have to believe!” insisted Advocaat following their latest defeat. “In all the games since I took over, we have not lost by more than one goal. Against PSV (currently top), against AZ (currently 3rd), the difference was small, so a little more belief will save us, I am sure!”

Advocaat holds a dear place in the hearts of Sparta fans, a few of whom may recall the days when their current manager plied his former trade there as a player almost 40 years ago.

Sparta fans were actually calling his name on the terraces not so long ago before the club’s board granted their wishes – on Christmas Day his arrival was announced, as though a spirit from Christmas past had come to their season’s rescue.

Dick Advocaat

The excitement of his appointment conjured expectations of survival, but the reality of results has set in.

Even if you have no understanding of the Dutch language, Advocaat’s last press conference on the club’s website (following another defeat) is well worth a look; this humble man’s face is etched with stress and literally red-coloured.

But his determination is so evident, his belief in his players so categorical, that one outcome seems the only conclusion. Survival, how good would that feel?! Indescribably – actually, tearfully – delightful!


By Geoff Brown at