Dick Advocaat has left his job as Sunderland’s head coach just four months after being persuaded to delay his retirement plans for a year.
The 68-year-old Dutchman, who was parachuted in to mastermind a nine-game rescue mission at the end of the last campaign, has walked away with the club sitting in 19th place in the Barclays Premier League on three points after winning none of their opening eight fixtures following Saturday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham at the Stadium of Light.
Advocaat’s departure was confirmed in a club statement which said: “Sunderland AFC has announced that Dick Advocaat has left his position as head coach at the club. The Dutchman informed the chairman of his decision to step down from his role and departs the Stadium of Light with immediate effect.”
It is understood the former Holland boss, who refused to discuss his future after the game, had decided to go whatever the result.
It leaves the Black Cats in a state of flux once again with sporting director Lee Congerton understood to be working a period of notice after tendering his resignation.
But as he departed, Advocaat said: “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 – like we did last year. I am thankful to the chairman (Ellis Short) for understanding my feelings and I remain on good terms with everyone at the club.
“I wish Ellis, Lee, all of the staff, players and of course the supporters, who made me feel so welcome here, the very best of luck for the rest of the season. I have some wonderful memories to take with me and I hope I will return to see everybody again in the future.”
Short, who is now embarking on the search for a replacement, said: “I am truly saddened by Dick’s decision, but I respect him for his honesty and for doing what he feels is right for the club.
“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 per cent 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.
“While this isn’t a situation any of us envisaged being in, what is important now is that we regroup quickly and focus on the rest of the season.”
Former Black Cats defender Sam Allardyce, who has been taking a break since leaving his post at West Ham at the end of last season, figures prominently on an early list of candidates being drawn up by Short.
Don't mind admitting Sam Allardyce would be my first choice. Give him autonomy for as long as it takes.— Michael Graham (@Capt_Fishpaste) October 4, 2015
Sunderland are also considering up-and-coming managers, as they did when they appointed Paolo Di Canio and his successor Gus Poyet, with the names of Burnley’s Sean Dyche, Karl Robinson of MK Dons and Burton’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink having been mentioned in dispatches.
Former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson is available, while there is a romantic school of thought touting Wearside goal hero Kevin Phillips as an outsider.
However, Allardyce’s availability, proven track record and connections with the club make him an attractive proposition.
The 60-year-old, who had a brief and ill-fated spell with derby rivals Newcastle earlier in his career, was linked with the job during the summer after Advocaat had rejected Short’s initial advances, but he admitted at the time that he was planning to take an extended break from football.
Only time will tell if the vacancy at the Stadium of Light is the right one for Allardyce, but what is certain is that it is a big one.
The current season is the club’s ninth since their return to the top flight under Roy Keane, and they are now looking for their seventh permanent manager or head coach since the former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland skipper resigned in December 2008.
They can boast only one top-10 finish during that period – they secured 10th place with 47 points under Steve Bruce at the end of the 2010-11 campaign – and have flirted with relegation in each of the last three seasons with Di Canio, Poyet and Advocaat each dragging them back from the brink.
Indeed, they have won just 26 of the 114 Premier League games they have played since the start of the 2012-13 season, and with the new £5.14billion broadcasting deal due to come into force next year, life back in the Sky Bet Championship is simply not an option.
The international break will give the club time to recruit a replacement, who would ideally be in place some time before the trip to West Brom on October 17.
His second game would be a home clash with the Magpies, who coincidentally provided the opposition for Di Canio, Poyet and Advocaat at the same stage of their respective tenures with all three enjoying famous victories.