Not square one for Sunderland
Published 28/05/2015 | 15:26
Sunderland will not have to go back to square one in their search for a new head coach after Dick Advocaat opted not to extend his stay on Wearside.
Chairman Ellis Short and sporting director Lee Congerton had hoped the 67-year-old would give them the answer they wanted after offering him a permanent deal in the wake of his successful nine-game Barclays Premier League survival mission.
However, it became apparent over the weekend that the Dutchman was likely to press ahead with his plans to retire from club football - although the former Holland and Serbia boss has not completely closed the door on taking another job on the international stage - and that was confirmed on Wednesday evening.
But while there is obvious disappointment at the Stadium of Light that a man of such vast experience and one with a proven track record had reluctantly rejected their overtures, which were backed by a lucrative contract and the promise of funds to strengthen a squad in serious need of reinforcement, much of the groundwork towards finding a successor has already been done.
Advocaat took over in March after Gus Poyet was shown the door with the club in desperate need, and his reign was only ever intended to be temporary after he was persuaded out of near-retirement by the chance to test himself in English football, albeit briefly.
However, as results started to turn and players and fans alike bought into his method, a bond developed which culminated in his tears of joy on the touchline at Arsenal after survival had been secured.
In the meantime, Short and Congerton had already started the process of drawing up a short-list in the search for a permanent successor to Poyet and although Advocaat was quickly catapulted to the top of it, the homework they carried out in advance remains in place.
But while time is short before the players are due to return for pre-season training, Sunderland are in no rush to make a crucial decision after getting it wrong so many times in the recent past.
The new man will be Short's fifth appointment in four and a half years and after twice gambling on potential rather than proven quality in the shape Poyet and Paolo di Canio, it remains to be seen what kind of head coach he is looking to employ.
What is certain is that the structure will remain the same and the successful candidate will have to work within it in partnership with Congerton, with whom Poyet enjoyed an uneasy relationship.
Former West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, who played for the club, was immediately installed as the bookmakers' favourite, but he does not necessarily fit into that template, and his indication that he will take an extended break from the game may rule him out.
Paul Clement, number two to Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, does, and was a colleague of Congerton's during his time at Chelsea, although Derby have targeted him as a replacement for Steve McClaren.
The former England boss, who has been firmly in Newcastle's sights since January, is another man who has worked successfully under a so-called "continental" system, while despite his assurances to the contrary, there has been speculation that Real Sociedad's David Moyes might be ready to return to English football.
Burnley's Sean Dyche has also been mentioned after impressing during the Clarets' ultimately unsuccessful bid to remain in the top flight, while there are plenty of Sunderland fans who would welcome a return to Wearside for Kevin Phillips, who recently indicated that was a long-term ambition, although his coaching experience to date is minimal.