Sunderland pick Gus Poyet: how he can save the Black Cats
The former Brighton boss takes over at the Stadium of Light, and could have his work cut out
SUNDERLAND have appointed former Chelsea player Gus Poyet as manager, and continued their tradition of hiring controversial bosses. Poyet becomes the Black Cats' sixth permanent manager in five years and follows in the footsteps of outspoken former incumbents including Roy Keane, Martin O'Neill and Paolo Di Canio.
The Uruguayan left Brighton in acrimonious circumstances in the summer after defeat to Crystal Palace in the play-offs. Prior to his four-year stint on the south coast he acted as assistant to his former Chelsea team-mate Dennis Wise at Swindon and Leeds, before joining Juane Ramos at Spurs.
The Sunderland job is his first in the top flight. But with the Black Cats rooted to the foot of the table and the dressing room in disarray it won’t be an easy job to keep them in the division. Here are the challenges he faces.
Convincing the owners Poyet will work with director of football Roberto De Fanti, but it took him a while to convince owner Ellis Short that Poyet was the man for the job. "The hesitation between interviewing Poyet and appointing him betrays the uncertainty in Short's mind," writes Luke Edwards in the Daily Telegraph. But eventually he picket Poyet. "He could have turned to Steve McClaren or Tony Pulis, managers who have proven they can turn medium-sized clubs into successful ones. They were the safe pair of hands. Poyet is the one he hopes has a touch of magic in his fingertips."
Uniting the players "Above all Poyet will have to unite and galvanise a club that has been too often divided in recent years," says James Riach in The Guardian. "The group of players at the Stadium of Light is an eclectic mix of nationalities with talent but it is still reeling from a disastrous start to the season. Despite his success in the lower leagues Poyet has never enjoyed success in a relegation battle before. There is no doubt Sunderland are in one and he will need to act swiftly if his first campaign in charge is to be a success."
Keeping them in check Di Canio sowed the seeds of discontent among the players at Sunderland, and he might not be the only one to reap the results, warns Edwards. Poyet "is inheriting a group of players who not only deposed their former manager in a dressing room revolt of unprecedented scale, they are a group who are still getting to know each other". Getting former captain Lee Cattermole onside will be crucial in that respect, adds Edwards in the Daily Telegraph. "Di Canio resented Cattermole’s influence so he ignored his qualities as a player. It was one of the Italian’s biggest mistakes."
Picking a team Di Canio signed a welter of foreign players over the summer, and few of them had any Premier League experience. It showed in the opening weeks of the season. Under caretaker Kevin Ball, Sunderland have looked marginally better, thanks to his decision to turn to experienced players who know each other and the Premier League. "Poyet, in the short term, would be advised to do the same, " says Edwards. "But what will De Fanti think if the new players are ignored? He signed them from abroad because he judged them to be better than those already at the Sunderland manager's disposal. "
Getting results Poyet established a reputation for attractive "progressive football" at Brighton, says Eurosport. But will that be enough to get Sunderland out of the hole they are in? "You have to wonder whether an entrenched relegation battle is the right introduction for a coach new to elite-level football," it asks. "If survival is Sunderland's prime aim now this season, perhaps the unspectacular yet undoubtedly reliable Tony Pulis would have been a safe choice." ·