Dick Advocaat was travelling to Sunderland last night to discuss replacing Gus Poyet as the club’s manager.
The well-travelled Dutchman, who has had two stints in charge of his national side and spent four years at Rangers, has been identified as the man to lead a late charge against relegation following Poyet’s dismissal yesterday.
The Black Cats are moving quickly in their pursuit of the 67-year-old, with Saturday’s trip to West Ham one of only nine games left to lift them away from the Barclays Premier League drop zone.
Advocaat has won league titles in three countries during his lengthy coaching career, claiming the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven, the Russian Super League with Zenit St Petersburg and two SPL trophies during his spell at Ibrox.
But the nature of the challenge that awaits at the Stadium of Light is of a different order entirely.
Poyet left the club a single point above the bottom three and reeling from a calamitous 4-0 home defeat by shot-shy Aston Villa.
That result, and images of thousands of Sunderland fans pouring out of the ground in disgust, hastened what had already become an expected departure for Poyet.
He was in post for 17 months, winning just 23 games from 75 at the helm.
The Uruguayan was permitted to take training for one last time at the Academy of Light before being summoned for a meeting that confirmed his fate.
Chairman Ellis Short released a short statement via the club’s official website, explaining the decision.
In it he made reference to Poyet’s successful fight against the drop last term, as well as an unexpected run to the Capital One Cup final, but expressed disappointment at slipping once again into a survival scrap.
The statement added that an announcement about Poyet’s successor would be made “in due course”.
Sunderland are thought to have given some thought to an internal appointment with three-time caretaker manager Kevin Ball and development coach Paul Bracewell already on the pay-roll.
But with QPR’s fortunes hardly having been improved by Chris Ramsay’s temporary promotion, the mood appears to have shifted quickly to an experienced campaigner in Advocaat.
He would be presented with a similar problem to the one that greeted Poyet’s predecessor Di Canio when he arrived two years ago.
The controversial Italian had even less time to secure top-flight status, but collected eight points from seven games to do the job.
Sunderland had four more points then than their current haul of 26, but the survival threshold is likely to be low this term.
As for Poyet he now joins the likes of Di Canio, Martin O’Neill, Steve Bruce and Ricky Sbragia in failing to turn around Sunderland’s fortunes in recent years.
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