It was the same old story for Sunderland in 2014-15; start with a vibrant manager with momentum from the previous campaign, fall into a mid-season lull, bring in someone new, regroup, stay up.
As the Black Cats begin this season with Dick Advocaat at the helm, there’s a sense things could be a little different at the Stadium of Light. Granted, the veteran Dutchman may not have the exuberance of men like predecessors Gus Poyet of Paolo Di Canio, but he showcased his pedigree by keeping Sunderland afloat last term.
Initially, the popular Advocaat didn’t look as though he’d be signing on for another season, but there was unanimous glee on Wearside when he had a change of heart. Now we’ll see whether the decorated 67-year-old has one final push in him before walking away from the management game for good.
It’ll be tough to do so for a team so familiar with being down at the bottom, but there were encouraging signs last season that Sunderland will be a much more stable entity under Advocaat. Watching the club has been a thrill ride for their supporters in recent seasons, but you suspect the Black Cats faithful would take a comfortable campaign in which relegation is easily avoided.
Reasons to be Positive
Advocaat’s Sunderland may not have finished in the same blaze of glory as Poyet’s or Di Canio’s when they each took the job midway through the season. But that may not necessarily be a bad thing for the Black Cats; indeed, the Dutchman made the team more cohesive at the back and was still able to field sides which included plenty of energy too.
It’s a steel which has been scarce in Sunderland sides in recent times and Advocaat will be hoping the club’s new signings can complement that. Yann M’Vila will be desperate to live up to his previous reputation as a star in the making during a season-long loan, while the likes of Jeremain Lens, Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Coates all add something to the squad.
Reasons to be Negative
The manager has only agreed a one-year deal at the Sunderland and that kind of ephemeral approach is something which could harm the club as they look to build a solid team. Advocaat also has a crop of underachieving and ageing strikers to call upon, meaning plenty of responsibility will fall squarely on the shoulders of Jermain Defoe to score the goals.