Another new season, another new manager and another false dawn at the Stadium of Light!
Dick Advocaat’s rescue mission during 2014/2015 had turned him into a hero amongst the fans on Wearside.
The Dutchman replaced Gus Poyet after our form nosedived at the wrong time, and his cool, calm and experienced approach steadied the ship. The team was subsequently able to grind out some significant wins, along with a defining point at the Emirates Stadium which ensured Premier League survival for another year.
Images of Advocaat in tears at the final whistle endeared him to Sunderland fans so much that everyone seemed to determined to keep hold of the former Rangers manager.
Advocaat was sceptical about returning for 2015/2016, but as the old saying goes, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’, and that’s exactly what the club did - along with a bouquet of flowers being sent to his wife by the fans!
After a slow recruitment process which only saw Younes Kaboul, Jeremain Lens and Adam Matthews arrive, anxiety and the fear of another season of struggle was rife.
These worries were justified after our 4-2 mauling at the hands of Leicester City, as we conceded three goals in the first twenty five minutes and were 4-0 down just after the hour mark, with consolation goals from Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher making it look more respectable.
After the game, Advocaat expressed his worry and desire for more business to be done in the transfer market.
After ten minutes, there were three crosses and three goals. At this level this cannot happen.
You have to show every minute away from home and we didn’t see that in the first half. We have to wait [for new players].
We struggled again. Everybody can see that we need more.
One week later, we took on newly-promoted Norwich City at home, and it was hoped that a better performance would see us gain our first points of the season.
Who were we kidding?
With just one more new recruit in the shape of Yann M’Vila, who started this game, the team put in what was possibly a worse performance than the previous week.
Norwich’s urgency, fluidity and sharpness in attack left our defence looking hapless and disjointed throughout, with the Canaries leading 3-0 after the hour mark at a stunned Stadium of Light.
The defeat led to a ‘clear the air’ meeting at the Academy of Light, during which Advocaat challenged his players to account for their performances in the opening two matches.
Chants of ‘Are you watching, Ellis Short?’ had been heard around the ground as the game drew to a close, but Advocaat was quick to defend the chairman who’d spent his fair share of money at the club, but whether it was spent well or not is a different question.
With all respect, you cannot blame the president for this.
I have to blame myself and the players have to blame themselves – that is where the blame lies.
Now, we have to find out if we can find a solution, otherwise we will have to change something. It’s as simple as that.
In hindsight, you could see Advocaat’s point.
Our constant need to reshape and refresh the squad wasn’t leading to results, and something had to change. In addition, the fans were far too used to the owner's chequebook being the solution for every issue that arose.
That said, further recruitments in the shape of Fabio Borini and Ola Toivonen did come in to boost the squad, but it was to no avail for Advocaat, who appeared to be regretting his decision to return and resigned in October after a 2-2 draw with West Ham United.
It appeared the Dutchman simply couldn’t go through another season of stress and misery at our then basket case of a club, and thankfully for him, he wasn’t a fan!