Chris Young Column - Which ‘Gus Poyet signings’ have a future at Sunderland?

Sebastian Coates in action for Sunderland against Fulham. Picture by FRANK REID
Sebastian Coates in action for Sunderland against Fulham. Picture by FRANK REID
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LIKE the CD collection from a messy divorce, each new manager has to pick over the bones of an old relationship.

It has happened too frequently at Sunderland.

Poyet’s ex-Brighton pair Will Buckley and Liam Bridcutt, plus the five South Americans who arrived at the Stadium of Light during the Uruguayan’s reign, were not signed out of coincidence

Every few months, a fresh face in the dug-out has cleared out those players he doesn’t fancy, and then brought in replacements more to his taste.

Invariably his successor has then decided those replacements aren’t good enough and the cycle continues.

At times this season, Sunderland’s starting XI has been comprised of signings made by four different managers. That hotchpotch of ideas has inevitably prompted struggle.

It won’t necessarily be a concern for Dick Advocaat. His supply teacher role dictates that his focus is only on present players, rather than future arrivals.

The director of football system that Ellis Short is so keen to persist with is designed to ensure some continuity between the respective reigns of head coaches too, rather than continually starting from scratch.

But while Lee Congerton will continue to oversee the club’s recruitment, several of Sunderland’s signings over the last 18 months or so have clearly been Gus Poyet captures.

Poyet’s ex-Brighton pair Will Buckley and Liam Bridcutt, plus the five South Americans who arrived at the Stadium of Light during the Uruguayan’s reign, were not signed out of coincidence.

They were Poyet’s men.

But what does the future hold for those remaining ‘Poyet signings’?

Of course, much will depend on what division Sunderland are competing in.

But will Poyet’s boys follow in the footsteps of Alfred N’Diaye, Modibo Diakite and Danny Graham? Inherited players who never impressed the new manager and were shipped out shortly after arriving, albeit on loan in the case of Graham.

Well for starters, we can safely say that Sebastian Coates will return to Liverpool at the end of his season-long loan spell.

Poyet was the driving force behind the capture of his fellow countryman after the head coach had turned his nose up at Congerton’s proposal of Manchester City’s Micah Richards.

Coates did superbly in December’s derby triumph at St James’s, but that was one of only three Premier League starts from the 24-year-old.

He will depart as part of Sunderland’s close season defensive overhaul.

In theory, the same can be said about Ricky Alvarez – sporadic glimpses of evident ability don’t justify an £8million permanent signing, particularly when so much of the season is spent on the treatment table.

The ‘but’ is the make-up of the clause in Alvarez’s loan deal, which revolves around whether Sunderland MUST sign the Argentine international permanently if they stay up.

All the noises from Inter Milan indicate that is the case. The Serie A giants are banking on their transfer budget being swelled by Alvarez’s sale.

But it would be a surprise if Sunderland hadn’t built some kind of get-out into the deal.

Certainly, when Sunderland are trying to comply with the limits of Financial Fair Play – and judging by the latest accounts, still have some way to go – that is a huge amount of money for a luxury player.

What about Buckley, Bridcutt and Santiago Vergini though? Poyet signings who have featured far more prominently in Sunderland’s first-team.

If the derby proves to be a false dawn and Sunderland are relegated, then Buckley and Bridcutt could prove to be key players in the Championship, even if they have proved unconvincing so far in the Premier League.

Advocaat has been working with Bridcutt on the training ground to get his head up and look for a forward pass far more frequently, while the Dutchman was pleased with Buckley’s return in the Under-21s on Monday.

But if they are still here come the end of the summer, neither are likely to be more than fringe players.

The intriguing one is Vergini.

Congerton was wary of paying the £5million asking price set by Costa Rican outfit Sport Uruguay de Coronado last summer, despite Poyet’s eagerness to re-sign the Argentine defender.

But there is a clause in Vergini’s loan to automatically keep him permanently, and given Coates will depart, plus potentially out-of-contract veterans Wes Brown and Anthony Reveillere, he will be here next season if Sunderland are still in the top flight.

Yes, Vergini is still guilty of lapses, but he has started 27 of 31 Premier League games this season. There is a player there, and one who has generally performed solidly.

Ultimately, he may prove to be the only lasting legacy of Poyet’s transfer decisions.