BLOG: As Advocaat Departs, Could Congerton Take One For The Team?

I’m more disappointed than I thought I would be about Dick going. I think I’d convinced myself that he was going to stay, and we’d move forward with him for the next couple of years. Then he’d help appoint his own successor, after stabilising the club, and we’d finally be moving in the right direction. How naïve of me. This is Sunderland, after all.


The debate has been wide ranging on who should be the next man in. The immediately available options aren’t particularly exciting.


Steve McClaren has ‘mutual consent in 18 months time’ written all over him. Derby’s run of results at the end of last season saw them plummet from automatic promotion hopefuls to nowhere, and another season in the Championship. He would work under a Sporting Director, but his appointment just isn’t something I’d like to entertain.


With the appointments of Paolo and Gus, we saw the first implementation of this new internal set up. Young head coaches with fresh ideas, a philosophy, a Sporting Director recruiting the pieces in the manager’s puzzle. Up to now it hasn’t exactly been a success. But, I wouldn’t be throwing the baby out with the bathwater just yet. Some might say the set up doesn’t work, but it’s not like we’ve been pulling up trees doing things the traditional way. Those issues go back generations.


Paul Clement was the early favourite. He would fit the mould of our last two permanent bosses. It would be a ‘forward thinking, interesting’ appointment, but I’m torn. Are we a club capable of building at the moment? Two managers have tried to put the foundations in, only for them to crumble before they’d really began.


You look at Aitor Karanka at Middlesbrough. He’s very much in the Poyet mould and he’s done an excellent job this season. Building in the Championship is a whole lot easier than doing it at the top level. We also saw during the Play Off final that he’s got a little way to go before that side are good enough to compete at the top. He needs time.


Time is of the essence in the Premier League. It feels like we’re trying to learn butterfly stroke whilst treading water in the North Sea at high tide. We’ve come close to drowning so many times, will we be willing to risk that again?


When we talk about building and philosophy, the two clubs that are always on the lips are Southampton and Swansea. Why cant we do what they do?


They’ve had the luxury of growing through the leagues. As they’ve got better and better, their young players have got better and better. They’ve been able to sign the right players at the right times. They’ve been able to add to a squad full of confidence. In recent times we’ve seen a fair few teams achieve back to back promotions, it shows that winning does breed confidence.


As we all know, Sunderland just don’t win enough games to put ourselves in a position where we have the confidence to add in young players. We can’t convince the top players to come to the club when they’re at their peak. Why would you go to a team that’s fought relegation for practically eight years? We’re constantly swimming against the tide.


There’s a feeling attentions will turn to Sam Allardyce, a man courted by Niall Quinn before the arrival of Roy Keane. I think Sam would do a good job. He’s a proven top flight manager and as Alan Shearer pointed out over the weekend, most clubs go on to worse things after his departure. From that perspective, he’d be a sensible choice. The problem though, is Lee Congerton.


We were told by our West Ham podcast guest, Nigel Kahn, that Sam had a clause in his contract stating he wouldn’t work with a Sporting Director. Signings were made above his head this season and things went sour. On Sunday, he was gone before the officials left the St. James’ Park pitch.


Should Lee Congerton bring Sam in, I feel he’d be administering his own P45. It would be disappointing. This is Congerton’s big chance to impress and whilst Allardyce would be a safe appointment, that’s not really why he was brought in. It’s an appointment anyone could make.


If we’re running out of time, then Congerton might just bite the bullet. He’d be putting the immediate needs of the club first and I’m sure he’d find himself a role elsewhere. Maybe he’d move to a different position in the club, within the academy or the scouting system, then return to his current role after a period of stabilisation.


Stability is the key word now. Advocaat offered that, and that seems the most likely route the club will go down. They say cats have nine lives. Well, we’ve had eight of them. Another gamble could prove to be fatal.


Gareth Barker