Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Advocaat Gets a Taste of Black Cats' Familiar Story

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Advocaat Gets a Taste of Black Cats' Familiar Story

Article excerpt

Byline: James Hunter Sports Writer twitter: @JHUNTERCHRON

IF nothing else, at least Dick Advocaat now knows what he is up against.

The Dutchman's debut as Sunderland manager ended in defeat at West Ham in the cruellest of circumstances. After 88 minutes of toil, desperate defending and missed chances, all the Black Cats' hard work was undone by a refereeing calamity.

It was a microcosm of Sunderland's entire season and a familiar sob story - the kind of chapter with which Advocaat's predecessor Gus Poyet could fill an entire book.

In his post-match Press conference, Advocaat refused to make an issue of referee Lee Mason's failure to spot Nene's blatant foul on Seb Larsson in the build-up to Diafra Sakho's winning goal.

He did not need to. The look on his face said it all, as he sighed: "Everybody saw it, but not the referee."

Mason's blunder - his third in as many games in charge of Sunderland this season, with the gaffe-o-meter now reading 2-1 against the Black Cats - ruined what had looked like a solid, if unspectacular, start to Advocaat's reign.

The experienced coach stuck with the same back four that was ripped to shreds by Aston Villa last week, but managed to organise them into a much tighter defensive unit.

He switched shape to 4-3-3, ditching the defensive mid-fielder, naming a midfield trio of Jordi Gomez, Seb Larsson and Jack Rodwell, and deploying Connor Wickham to great effect just behind Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe.

And he showed he is not a man to duck big decisions, reintegrating Adam Johnson in the squad after the lifting of his club suspension, and bringing him on as a sub for the final 15 minutes at Upton Park.

The latter was a huge call, and it is a sign of just how important Advocaat feels Johnson's contribution could be in the battle against the drop. …

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