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Animated Advocaat brings passion and eccentricity to relegation dogfight

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Sunderland Head Coach, Dick Advocaat gestures on the touchline against West Ham United (Nigel French/PA Wire)

Sunderland Head Coach, Dick Advocaat gestures on the touchline against West Ham United (Nigel French/PA Wire)

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Sunderland's Jermain Defoe rues a missed chance against West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London (Nigel French/PA Wire)

Sunderland's Jermain Defoe rues a missed chance against West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London (Nigel French/PA Wire)

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West Ham United's Alex Song (right) and Sunderland's Jack Rodwell battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London (Nigel French/PA Wire)

West Ham United's Alex Song (right) and Sunderland's Jack Rodwell battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London (Nigel French/PA Wire)

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West Ham United's Alex Song (right) and Sunderland's Jordi Gomez battle for the ball (Nigel French/PA Wire)

West Ham United's Alex Song (right) and Sunderland's Jordi Gomez battle for the ball (Nigel French/PA Wire)

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West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce gestures on the touchline against Sunderland (Nigel French/PA Wire)

West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce gestures on the touchline against Sunderland (Nigel French/PA Wire)

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West Ham United's Ricardo Vaz Te (left) and Sunderland's Adam Johnson battle for the ball (Nigel French/PA Wire)

West Ham United's Ricardo Vaz Te (left) and Sunderland's Adam Johnson battle for the ball (Nigel French/PA Wire)

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Sunderland's Adam Johnson (left) in action against West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London (Nigel French/PA Wire)

Sunderland's Adam Johnson (left) in action against West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London (Nigel French/PA Wire)

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Sunderland's Adam Johnson walks off dejected after the game against West Ham United (Nigel French/PA Wire)

Sunderland's Adam Johnson walks off dejected after the game against West Ham United (Nigel French/PA Wire)

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Sunderland Head Coach, Dick Advocaat gestures on the touchline against West Ham United (Nigel French/PA Wire)

One of Dick Advocaat's first games after taking over as manager of Rangers in 1998 was a UEFA Cup tie against Shelbourne at Prenton Park.

At half-time, Rangers were 2-0 down. A livid Advocaat stormed into the dressing-room - populated mostly by players he still barely knew - and began ranting furiously in Dutch.

A young Barry Ferguson leaned over to new right-back Arthur Numan and asked what on earth the new gaffer was saying.

"He just called us all a*** holes," Numan replied. Rangers went on to win the game 5-3.

The point of mentioning all this is that, even at the very start of a new job, Advocaat is not the sort of manager who bothers with niceties.

Quite the contrary - he delights in making an entrance, wiping the slate clean, putting noses out of joint.

At Rangers, the entire squad had to sit together at meal times, and nobody was allowed to start eating until Advocaat did.

It was therefore interesting to watch the Dutchman on the touchline during his first Premier League game, and to note that very little had changed.

At 67, an age when most men are winding down their professional ambitions and booking cruise holidays, Advocaat was as vigorously animated as ever: arms flying, blood vessels popping, impervious to the chilly east London night.

He is a coach obsessed with the distances between his Sunderland players, and you could see him almost manoeuvring his players by hand, urging Jermain Defoe to go long, exhorting his defence to push a higher line.

Sunderland lost, undone a little unluckily by a late Diafra Sakho shot, but afterwards Advocaat had lost none of his characteristic bullishness.

He complained about the foul on Sebastian Larsson in the build-up, taunted West Ham as a "long-ball" team, ignoring the fact that his side had played 64 long balls of their own.

Given his fastidious attention to detail, you suspect he knew as much. This was just his way of making an entrance.

For most of the past two decades, Advocaat has made no secret of his desire to manage in the Premier League.

That the only opportunity to do so came in the shape of a club nine games from relegation appeared not to have deterred him in the slightest.

And Advocaat's immense desire and unquenchable passion for the fight could be exactly what Sunderland need in the scrap for survival.

The thing about Sunderland, as their former manager Roy Keane once put it, is that it is "pretty bleak".

As a footballing city, it has few equals. But to the modern breed of player, there is more to it than that.

The modern player pictures the long dark nights, the cold wind whipping in off the North Sea, the remoteness. Sunderland is a unique test of a footballer's sinew, the sort of place where you either sink or swim.

Over the past couple of years, too many have been sinking.

When Gus Poyet's side needed to dig deep, too many players shirked the fight.

Advocaat's job is to mould this motley assemblage of grafters and chancers into some sort of unit, by whatever means necessary.

For all its technical gifts, the Rangers side he built was full of born fighters and pure nutters.

It will be interesting to see how he uses Lee Cattermole when he makes his expected return from injury. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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