DICK ADVOCAAT insists he is enjoying his first taste of a nail-biting relegation battle after challenging for titles throughout his decorated career.
It’s do-or-die time for Sunderland in their bid to remain in the Premier League, with the Black Cats in dire need of only a sixth top flight win of the campaign when Southampton visit the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
After falling into the bottom three for only the second time this season last weekend, Sunderland lie a point adrift of safety, with an inferior goal difference to each of the sides above them.
But rather than being overwhelmed by the pressure-cooker of the dogfight, Sunderland head coach Advocaat is relishing the experience.
Other than a six-month spell at Borussia Monchengladbach, Advocaat has been battling at the top end of the league during his club career, but says Sunderland’s current plight provides a contrasting challenge.
Advocaat said: “I always worked for a team that was playing for first or second place. This is a different situation.
“You realise now that you have to do it in a very short period.
“But that also makes it very positive.
“We are getting everything back from the players in terms of the way they train.”
Advocaat believes Sunderland’s players have responded to his appointment after being handed a two-month contract to replace the sacked Gus Poyet six weeks ago.
Certainly, there was a much-improved display of commitment at Stoke City last weekend, with Sunderland emerging with only their fourth away point of 2015.
And Advocaat remains confident that if there is a similar show of dedication throughout the remaining five games, Sunderland can pull off an escape from the drop for the third successive year.
“We have the feeling that there are good players, who have a good touch,” he added.
“But they have to work for their money.
“If you have commitment, like against Newcastle and Stoke, then you can beat them.
“If we give 100 per cent with the quality we have, we can make it very difficult for teams.”