At the helm: Advocaat pushes Lads to safety

When Gus Poyet was relieved of his duties on March 16 2015, the question on everybody’s lips was who would replace him?

The following day, the club announced that former Rangers and Netherlands manager Dick Advocaat would be taking the job until the end of the 2014-15 season.

His task was simple, keep Sunderland in the Premier League. 

The club were on a downward trend and were sat in 17th position on the day he took the job, with Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Hull City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers all vying for safety. 

His reign got off to an unfortunate start, with West Ham United defeating Sunderland 1-0 at Upton Park.

That game was followed by one of the most memorable games in the Stadium of Light’s existence as Jermain Defoe netted a 20-yard volley into the top corner to give Sunderland a 1-0 victory against their local rivals Newcastle – their fifth in a row. 

A disappointing 4-1 home defeat against Crystal Palace dampened the mood, but a draw away at Stoke City was followed by two wins against Southampton and Everton, leaving the team on the verge of safety.

Leicester City were then held to a 0-0 draw which meant Sunderland needed one point from their final two games, both away, to secure survival.

Arsenal were first, and the team defended magnificently for 90 minutes to secure the all-important point and keep themselves in the Premier League for another season. 

Famously, Advocaat was spotted on the touchline in tears thanks to the monumental feat of keeping the Black Cats up and the club was well and truly under his skin.

The question of whether he would stay or not was up in the air as he announced his intention to retire at the end of the season.

But sure enough, with the help of some flowers to his wife from the Sunderland fans, Advocaat was persuaded to stay at the club and signed a one-year deal.

That summer, Advocaat brought in Jeremain Lens, Fabio Borini, Yann M’Vila, DeAndre Yedlin and Ola Toivonen to bolster the ranks and avoid yet another relegation battle.

Unfortunately, a poor start to the season saw the team fail to win any of their first nine league games and they sat 19th with just three points.

His final game in charge was an entertaining affair, with Lens scoring a superb goal before being sent off. The Black Cats held a 2-0 lead at the time, but West Ham fought back and hammered home a 2-2 draw. 

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