Chris Young’s match analysis: Fortune favours the brave – and Sunderland

THE RUNNING order on Goals on Sunday had to be frantically re-ordered as Gus Poyet talked, and then talked some more.

The ex-Sunderland boss – who actually reflected on his time on Wearside with great dignity – is never short on a word or two, particularly, as was the case yesterday, when he’s looking to promote his ideas and philosophy to get back into employment.

Interviewers don’t find it quite so easy with his successor at the Stadium of Light.

There is no cozy media love-in with Dick Advocaat. He’s all business, particularly when his business revolves around the single-minded objective of keeping Sunderland in the Premier League.

Over the last two months, Advocaat has been specifically cagey over whether his Sunderland tenure will continue beyond this short-term contract, albeit he admitted over the weekend that this will be the last stop in his decorated managerial career.

The strong likelihood remains that the 67-year-old will return to his native Holland at the end of the month, regardless of whether Sunderland are still in the Premier League or not, and the Black Cats will appoint a successor for the long-term.

Paul Clement’s name has been flying around for months in football circles up here and he still looks the natural fit for Sunderland’s managerial structure working alongside his ex-Chelsea chum Lee Congerton.

But if Advocaat completes the job of keeping Sunderland in the top flight – as looks far more likely after a HUGE win at Goodison Park for the second year on the spin – does the ex-Holland boss deserve a full season in charge?

After collecting 10 points from just six games, Advocaat has every right to make a transatlantic call to Ellis Short.

If it hadn’t been for Leicester’s remarkable revival, Sunderland would already be safe by now.

They might be anyway, with Hull realistically needing to one of their final two games against Spurs and Manchester United after what could prove to be a fatal defeat for Steve Bruce’s men at home to relegated Burnley.

Advocaat has restored fight, guts and commitment to these players and they are dragging themselves away from danger, with a hefty splash of fortune accompanying that determination.

There’s been no transfer window for Advocaat to bring in reinforcements, no real glut of options to change the side, and he’s had to deal with the Adam Johnson legal situation, albeit the winger played a key cameo from the bench to set-up Jermain Defoe’s clincher.

But Advocaat has used all of his experience to steady the Sunderland ship when it was heading to the bottom of the ocean.

However, we’ve been here before.

Advocaat’s three predecessors all made an immediate impact and got the results they needed to keep Sunderland in the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Sunderland supporters have seen time and again that what players produce in the now-or-never environment of a relegation battle is not necessarily an accurate reflection of how they perform in mid-November.

In fairness, Advocaat would not tolerate a drop in standards. He’s known as the “Little General” for a reason.

But Sunderland need to think long and hard about whose turn it is next on their managerial merry-go-round to finally stop it revolving.

There are question marks over whether Advocaat would even want it in the first place after suggestions in Holland following his appointment that his wife wanted him back home when his short-term deal had concluded.

He again seemed to refer to that on Saturday.

Would Advocaat be happy working under a director of football too?

Yes, Congerton appointed Advocaat (and Congerton will receive a hefty pat on the back if his decision pays off) but he has been left with the black and white task of keeping the club up.

Advocaat has not had to worry about signings, contracts or transfer negotiations.

Would he be content to delegate all of those powers to Congerton?

If so, the attraction to Sunderland’s hierarchy would be that he could finally usher in a period of tranquillity after years of seat-of-the-pants existence.

The problem with that proposal though is that Sunderland would be looking for yet another head coach a year or so down the line when Advocaat did finally retire. It could be straight back to square one.

Sunderland’s best bet might be to use Advocaat in a consultancy role, particularly if there’s a young coach like Clement who takes the reins.

There could be few better mentors to learn from about producing the maximum return from a set of players.

Since the collapse against Crystal Palace a month ago, Sunderland have come to the party in the relegation battle, with doggedly determining displays in each of the last three games.

Their performance against Everton was the least convincing of the lot, with Sunderland unable to exert any midfield control and frequently sloppy in possession, particularly Jordi Gomez, who had performed so well against both Stoke and Southampton.

In the first half, those hundreds of Sunderland fans who arrived late after traffic chaos on the M62 missed absolutely zilch from the visitors, as their attacks repeatedly petered out.

An Everton side lacking intensity weren’t much better, yet still drew three smart saves out of Costel Pantilimon.

But while Sunderland were far from flashy, Advocaat has set them up in such a pragmatic fashion for this run-in, that they always had a chance of coming away with something after getting to the interval goalless.

Defensively, Sunderland were excellent, with their team shape rarely wavering, even if it required Defoe to track back ceaselessly, almost to the point of filling in at right-back.

Even when Defoe was moved alongside Danny Graham for the second half, with Wickham operating in the number 10 slot, the 32-year-old still found himself helping out at the back.

Clearly, that’s not Defoe’s position, but needs must at a time like this.

The back four, plus Pantilimon and Lee Cattermole, all deserve plenty of credit, particularly centre-halves Wes Brown and Sebastian Coates for keeping Romelu Lukaku subdued, despite being thrust together for only the second time.

While Sunderland were perilously pinned back after Graham’s opener, the only time Everton really looked like scoring was when James McCarthy’s angled drive cannoned back off the far post.

Of course, it needed a touch of luck for Sunderland to get the three points – with the £5million fee invested in Graham two-and-a-half years ago perversely paid off in an instant, if that proves to be the goal which keeps the club in the Premier League.

But fortune favours the brave at this time of the season.

It seems to always follow Sunderland in the run-in, as the escape artists extraordinaire are on the verge of doing it again.

A win against Leicester next weekend – which may be tougher than either of the last two victories – should be sufficient to get Sunderland over the line.

If that comes off, the decision to remove Poyet and chopper in Advocaat will have fulfilled its goal.

It’s then that the club need to enjoy success with an equally pivotal call over what happens next.