Chris Young column: Poyet’s Sunderland philosophy promises progress

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet.
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GUS POYET ain’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers.

He has done it throughout pre-season when referring to Sunderland’s transfer activity - or the slow-paced nature of it.

And you only have to look back as far as April - when Sunderland’s Premier League status was hanging by a thread - to recall Poyet publicly lamenting that there was “something wrong” at the club after successive years of toil.

Back then, Poyet was clearly hankering for some assurances over whether that would change, regardless of which division the Black Cats were in.

On the eve of Poyet beginning his first full season in charge at the Stadium of Light, has he received them?

Well, the 12-month contract extension which Poyet penned back in May after discussions was Ellis Short, was a clear signal that the Uruguayan was more content with Sunderland’s vision.

So too has been the investment on Jack Rodwell, plus the money set aside for Fabio Borini.

There had been real fears that Sunderland’s budget would be far more humble than the £25million-plus which could still be shelled out on transfer fees this summer.

The outlay has been encouraging and let’s face it, thoroughly necessary.

On a smaller scale, Poyet’s recommendation for a new full-time player liaison officer to help overseas recruits settle has been approved, with an appointment already made.

Clearly there has been tension between Poyet and sporting director Lee Congerton over the wait for new signings, but that’s no different to any club.

Managers are always greedy for fresh blood, particularly when - as in Sunderland’s case - it is so evidently needed.

It’s hardly heresy for the man in the dug-out to be looking to squeeze every penny out of the colleague controlling the purse strings.

In Sunderland’s case, it is simply that Ellis Short has appointed a middle man to bridge those two remits.

Congerton is the juggler; balancing the need for quality recruitment, while ensuring Sunderland’s bank balance doesn’t plummet into the red. That’s no easy task.

However, the razor-sharp Poyet is well aware that his stock among supporters is rarely going to be as high as it currently is, barring Sunderland ending their 41-years-and-counting wait for silverware.

By going public with his concerns over incomings, he has simply - and slyly - looked to speed up that process.

But Poyet’s views on the transfer market and what is - or isn’t - right at the club, now go on the back-burner.

Rightly or wrongly, Poyet will be judged on Sunderland’s results this season with far more scrutiny.

After taking charge in October, the Uruguayan had plenty of available mitigation, with the club in an utterly shambolic state after the iron-fist of Paolo Di Canio and the questionable investments of Roberto De Fanti.

At the time Poyet was appointed, anything more than yet another record Premier League points low seemed almost a bonus for Sunderland’s beleaguered supporters.

But now the situation is different.

Poyet has brought in the players of his own choosing.

He has had a full pre-season to work with the bulk of his squad on the training field.

Sunderland won’t suddenly be world-beaters this season, but neither should they return to the hapless side who took just a point from eight games at the start of last year.

There is no reason to suspect Poyet’s new-look Sunderland will be utterly underwhelming, as the Wearsiders were 12 months ago.

Yes, he made mistakes last season - the January signing of Nacho Scocco, the much-changed line-up in the FA Cup quarter final at Hull, the brief experiment with three at the back.

But overall, Poyet provided a medicinal tonic which took Sunderland off their death bed. He was rightly mooted as a candidate for Manager of the Season as a result.

Poyet also has a long-term vision for the club.

He wants to integrate the academy products into the first-team picture. It wasn’t just a protest point to field so many Under-21s during pre-season.

That’s a stark contrast to both Di Canio and Martin O’Neill, who gave scant regard to the youth set-up.

After the managerial madness of the last four years, Sunderland need Poyet to lay down some roots and fulfil the promise he has already shown in fire-fighting against relegation.

Poyet’s first full season at the Black Cats helm needs to be one of continued progression.

ANY CLUB outside of last year’s top seven have to be included in the mix for relegation.

No-one should be naive enough to think that Sunderland’s immediate objective this season should be any higher.

It’s all about reaching 40 points first and foremost and then re-assessing.

But there are obvious contenders for the drop.

The newly-promoted trio, particularly Burnley, will be in the mix, while the questionable signings and managerial scrutiny at Aston Villa and West Brom is likely to see both Midlands outfits struggle.

But as an outside bet for relegation, how about two of last season’s top flight new boys?

Steve Bruce has bolstered his Hull squad this summer - albeit he has paid over the odds - and the Tigers were well-drilled and defensively solid last season.

But the drain of the Europa League, on a side now lacking the feel-good factor of promotion, cannot be overlooked.

The same can be said of Crystal Palace.

Tony Pulis’ remarkable rescue act saw Palace finish an incredible 12 points clear of the bottom three.

Yet as they scraped a stalemate at the Stadium of Light in March, Palace were, frankly, awful.

There has been minimal investment this summer and like the other 12 teams in the bottom reaches of the table, they have to be considered as relegation fodder.