It’s amazing to think about it, but it is only just over six years since we begged Dick Advocaat and his wife to stay on at Sunderland.
I have to admit, I didn’t really get it. He was a nice bloke and had an impressive record as a manager over the years, and although he’d done what he was asked to do in the nine games he was in charge at the end of the 2014-15 season, we really needed a new direction.
But, the flowers and no doubt an enticing contract was enough to see the 68-year-old former Rangers and PSV manager sign a one-year contract to carry on as manager of Sunderland.
Money was spent in the summer on the likes of Jermaine Lens from Dynamo Kyiv in a deal worth £8million, Younes Kaboul from Spurs for £3million and Fabio Borini from Liverpool which eventually sealed an on-off transfer saga for around £10million. Additional signings to boost the ranks that didn’t involve transfer fees came in the form of Yann M’Vila, DeAndre Yedlin and Ola Toivonen, as well as Adam Matthews from Celtic on a free transfer.
But despite the new blood, things seemed all too familiar as we prepared for our eighth Premier League fixture of the season, which saw Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United arrive in the north-east as we were still searching for our first win of the season.
After 25 minutes, things were looking up. Goals from Steven Fletcher and Jermaine Lens had put us 2-0 up and coasting, but by the hour mark, it was 2-2 and we were hanging on following the sending off of goalscorer Lens thanks to a second yellow card.
The following day Dick Advocaat resigned as manager of Sunderland:
I want to thank everyone who has stood behind me. This is a very special football club, with so many great people, but I feel it is the right time to do this – not for me but for the club.
I have made the decision to go after only eight games as I felt it was important to give everyone time to turn things around. I am thankful to the chairman for understanding my feelings and I remain on good terms with everyone at the club. I have some wonderful memories to take with me and I hope I will return to see everybody again in the future.
Chairman Ellis Short was keen to share in his statement that he was sad to see the Dutchman leave and that he left with the respect of the club for the way he had handled himself:
I am truly saddened by Dick’s decision, but I respect him for his honesty. He is a man of integrity and a true football person. He was hugely respectful of the club in taking this decision and he acted 100% in our best interests.
It is also testament to his character that he has foregone any kind of a financial settlement, something which is very unusual in football.
I want to place on record my sincere thanks to Dick. He will be remembered with great affection by everyone at Sunderland and there will always be a warm welcome for him here at the Stadium of Light.
It was down to Lee Congerton to navigate the best path forward despite the fact he was working out his notice after resigning in the weeks prior to Advocaat, and reports suggested that at the top of the list was Sean Dyche, Nigel Pearson and Sam Allardyce.
Five days later, Allardyce, who had been out of work after leaving West Ham in the summer, was handed a two-year contract to be Advocaat’s successor and had a week to prepare for a trip to fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion.
A Saido Berahino goal would mean all three points would go to Tony Pulis’ side at the Hawthorns and meant that we were in deep trouble ahead of the visit of Newcastle United, as we sat rooted to the bottom of the table, five points adrift of safety.
It goes without saying it’s always a big game when we take on our nearest and dearest, but to add to the fact it was our new manager’s first game at the Stadium of Light, Newcastle were struggling under new manager Steve McClaren as they occupied the final relegation place only three points better off than ourselves. Allardyce, of course, had spent an unpopular spell in charge at St James’,
In the first half, however, we looked off the pace and for large periods looked second best, with the away side having 12 shots on goal compared to our 3 in the opening 45 minutes. But, just before half-time, we were awarded a penalty when Fabricio Coloccini pushed Steven Fletcher as he chased a ball that appeared to be running towards Rob Elliot in the Newcastle goal.
Referee Robert Madley pointed to the spot and then showed the Newcastle defender the red card, after his initial decision of giving the foul left him with no real choice but to follow it up with a dismissal.
Johnson stuck away the penalty to give us an undeserved lead into the break and a platform to build on in the second half – which we did just after the hour mark when Billy Jones made it two with a close range finish.
And if there was a feeling of relief during the celebrations of the second goal, our third goal with four minutes remaining was the icing on the cake. A sweeping move on the break with Younes Kaboul stepping out and being given the ball by Yann M’Vila to provide an inch perfect cross for Steven Fletcher to meet on the volley to put us three up and put the game beyond any doubt.
It’s fair to say Sam Allardyce was pleased with the result:
We’ve carried that precious piece of history on - the fourth manager to beat Newcastle in their second game as Sunderland boss. This was quite an achievement considering the low ebb we’re in at the moment - facing a rival with the extra pressure of having won the last five derbies.
And fast forward to May when we finished two points ahead of Newcastle as they occupied the final relegation place – it seemed like a very good result indeed.
Sunday 25th October 2015
Barclays Premier League
Sunderland 3-0 Newcastle United
(Johnson (pen) 45’, Jones 65’, Fletcher 86’)
Sunderland: Pantilimon, Yedlin, O’Shea (Coates), Kaboul, Jones, Johnson, Cattermole, M’Vila, Lens (Larsson), Toivonen (Defoe), Fletcher Substitutes not used: Mannone, Van Aanholt, Gomez, Watmore
Newcastle United: Elliot, Janmaat, Coloccini, Mbemba, Dummett (Thauvin), Sissoko, Tiote (Lascelles), Colback (Anita), Wijnaldum, Perez, Mitrovic Substitutes not used: Woodman, Haidara, De Jong, Cisse