Sunderland are banking on the guile of Dick Advocaat to save them from relegation after the English Premier League strugglers appointed the Dutchman as head coach until the end of the season on Tuesday.
The club, who sacked Gus Poyet on Monday following a poor run of results that culminated in a 4-0 home thrashing by Aston Villa on Saturday, are one point and one place clear of the relegation zone with nine matches remaining.
“Sunderland is a big club and I am very much looking forward to the challenge ahead. We must now concentrate on Saturday as a priority and I can’t wait to get started,” the former Dutch national coach said in a statement on the club website (www.safc.com).
Sunderland chairman Ellis Short said: “Dick has an incredible CV and vast experience of managing at the very highest level. We have one aim only now – to climb the table and everyone is fully focused on the task ahead of us.”
Poyet departed following a run of one win in 12 league matches which has left the club in danger of relegation after eight seasons in the Premier League.
Advocaat’s immediate aim will be to win at West Ham United on Saturday.
The 67-year-old becomes the oldest manager in the Premier League but has no previous experience of working in England, although he did lead Rangers to successive Scottish titles in 1999 and 2000 and is one of the most experienced and respected coaches in the game.
As well as coaching the Netherlands, he has also coached the national teams of the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Belgium, Russia and Serbia.
At club level, he has coached Borussia Moenchengladbach, Zenit St Petersburg, AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven as well as Rangers.
But his appointment represents something of a gamble for Short because, historically speaking, changing managers so late in the season, rarely has any major effect on the team.
Since the Premier League started in 1992-93, only 14 managers have been appointed on March 17 or later while all six clubs who were in the relegation zone when the new man came in still went down.
Advocaat had been out of a job since last November following an unsuccessful four-month spell in charge of Serbia. He quit after a 3-1 home defeat by Denmark left them with only a forlorn hope of reaching next year’s 24-team tournament in France.