- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

Experienced Dutch coach Dick Advocaat had a change of heart and signed a one-year deal with Sunderland on Thursday, a week after walking away from the Premier League team saying he was retiring from club management.

The much-traveled Advocaat built up an emotional attachment with Sunderland during a two-month spell as interim coach at the end of last season, during which he saved the northeast club from relegation.

Advocaat rejected the opportunity to take charge on a permanent basis last week, only to change his mind after further conversations with Sunderland chairman Ellis Short and sporting director Lee Congerton, as well as his family.

“Dick was always our No. 1 choice and we were determined we weren’t going to take no for an answer,” Congerton said in a club statement.

Sunderland turned to the 67-year-old Advocaat - nicknamed “The Little General” - in March to save the team from relegation in the latest late-season change from the perennial Premier League struggler. He won three and drew three of his nine games in charge, securing survival with a match to spare and maintaining his record of never having been relegated in three decades as a coach.

After the match that clinched Sunderland another year of top-flight football - a 0-0 draw at Arsenal - Advocaat had tears in his eyes as he stood on the sideline.

“It was a great feeling to be part of Sunderland in the last few months,” said Advocaat, whose coaching career has taken in two stints in charge of the Netherlands and spells with the national teams of United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Belgium, Russia and Serbia.

“The experience was something very special and after talking with Lee, Ellis and of course my family, we all agree it is the right decision (to carry on).”

Sunderland has finished the season with a different coach than it started with for the past four years, but will be hoping Advocaat brings some stability - at least in the short term.

During the run-in, Advocaat set the team up defensively in the most part, with strikers Connor Wickham and Jermain Defoe often playing as auxiliary defenders.

It worked, but the wily Dutchman will look to add a greater attacking edge next season.

“Dick’s credentials in football are top class and we saw what an impact his vast knowledge and experience had on our team and the club as a whole in just two months,” said Ellis Short, Sunderland’s American owner.

“Sunderland fans took him to their hearts and so did everyone at the club, so we are absolutely thrilled that he will be here longer term.”

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