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Sunderland Must Appoint Head Coach For Now, Not Tomorrow

Dick Advocaat, at 67, is not the future of Sunderland, but it's the present that needs urgent attention.

Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

As is customary at this time of the year, concerns over whether Sunderland will survive have turned to questions over how to avoid another struggle next season.

They are questions for which Sunderland have struggled to really come up with solid answers.

In a way, you almost feel a bit cruel saying that. After all, there are only eight teams in the Premier League who have been a fixture in it for a longer current unbroken spell than Sunderland now. Say what you want about the club, but they are survivors, and they have proven it again and again.

But that's a reaction, and I don't think anyone will be questioning the ferocity with which the players defended the club's top flight status towards the end of this season.

What Sunderland have always struggled to get right is the proactive part.

And the annoying thing about that is that it is a maddeningly simple solution: You get a good head coach or manager, and you invest in good players. That really is it. The rest simply takes care of itself.

It's not as if Sunderland haven't tried, either. No one can accuse Ellis Short of not backing the club to a financial point of view. I often - usually - feel depressed watching Sunderland knowing I've paid £400 for the privilege, imagine how Short must feel knowing he's paid a couple hundred million so far.

He didn't give his most enthusiastic spending to the right man, and Steve Bruce's relegation with Hull after some eye-watering spending at the KC Stadium, if not the mess he left here, should make that obvious to everyone, but he has generally been happy to invest.

In recent years, as the investment has fallen a little, the quality of coaching has similarly dropped.

The dice have been rolled, but in fairness it is not usually easy to find quality permanent solutions midway through a season. This season, the opportunity is there to recruit in the much more interesting summer market - if the club needs to.

There is, of course, zero doubt that Dick Advocaat is the man that Sunderland want to appoint. He has confirmed he has been offered a deal, he has spoken transfer targets with Lee Congerton, and there is little evidence of any overtures being made at all to anyone else. Advocaat is Sunderland's man, they hope.

Whilst the appreciation for the Dutchman among the support appears just about absolute, the possibility of an extended stay has caused an interesting debate surrounding the bigger picture at the club.

The assertion from some is that while Advocaat has done supremely well and left a lasting impression on the club, it's tough to rebuild a club around a 67-year-old man with a 70-year-old assistant, Bert van Lingen.

It's a point of view I can understand, but it's not one I can really share myself. For me, long-term planning has become a luxury that Sunderland can no longer prioritise.

Roberto de Fanti was supposed to be the man to sort the long term vision of the club, but short-term emergencies overwhelmed it. Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet have gone the same way.

It really needs to be back to baby steps for the club now. Find a man who can deliver a solid Premier League season. Then deliver another. The endless cycle of short-term panic stations has to be broken before the long term can even be looked at in a rational manner.

Stability is needed at Sunderland, and I am not for one second suggesting the future is mortgaged away for some short term security. On the contrary.

Let Lee Congerton worry about the scouting network, the youth development, the coach development, the youth recruitment, the academy, and all the rest of that stuff. That's what he is here for. That is his job. Directors of football, sporting directors, whatever, exist to simplify the remit of the head coach, manager, whatever.

All Sunderland need is someone who is going to win enough games to represent genuine progression, and to be able to do it now.

Advocaat looks as good as any other realistic option out there, plus stylistically, both in terms of his character and football, he is a fine fit with Sunderland.

Talk to people at the club about him and two words keep on cropping up: "no bullsh*t". If there are two words that probably sum up what fans want their club to be about, they are probably the same.

Whether or not he will be tempted back, I don't know. I think it's clear that he wants to stay. Why else do you put pressure on the owner to invest and discuss future plans with the sporting director? Why weep for a club which means nothing to you or your future? He wants to stay.

His wife probably has other ideas, and he won't be interested in delaying his retirement to plod about a training pitch with limited battlers. He has worked with quality all his career and quality is what will get him to extend it.

But that, surely, is the biggest reason why any of us should want him to stay.

If Advocaat has earned Short's trust and inspired some serious investment in the team, then why swap him for a manager who may not be able to provoke a similar enthusiasm?

If that investment comes alongside a manager of proven pedigree and with the kind of contacts and respect Advocaat commands abroad, then all the better.

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