A BEAMING Gus Poyet delivered a confident performance at his grand unveiling at the Academy of Light yesterday.
But as the Echo’s CHRIS YOUNG reports, Poyet’s message was a grounded, sensible approach, centred on Premier League survival, rather than the boastful promises of his predecessor.
EXPECTATION. A word that has plagued Sunderland managers in the dug-out musical chairs of the last two years.
After Steve Bruce antagonised supporters by misguidedly belittling them for boasting ideas above their station, every subsequent manager has faced the press conference firing squad of what they “expect” this club to attain.
Martin O’Neill held the carrot of Sunderland being a top six club, albeit one who were not blessed with top six players during his stewardship.
And Paolo Di Canio envisaged unparalleled success from his revolution, before being undone by his own internal coup.
Just hours after meeting those Sunderland players not involved on international duty, wandering around the corridors of the Academy of Light and enjoying a brief chat with caretaker boss Kevin Ball, Gus Poyet faced the inevitable question.
What does he expect Sunderland to achieve during his tenure?
Sensibly, Poyet decided to postpone his answer until next summer.
There were no grandiose plans of playing European football or getting into the top 10.
Until the very real threat of relegation is overcome, it would have been foolhardy to make false promises of long-term objectives.
All Poyet expects is a successful survival battle and the prospect of restoring some pride to supporters treated to a succession of body blows over a harrowing start to the season.
Poyet said: “I think here is quite easy. The expectation as everybody knows is to stay in the Premier League.
“In the position we are, we can’t dream to think about anything else until we are out of this situation.
“Then next year, I will sit down here and depending on where we are and how we finish, I will tell you.
“I’m not scared about saying where we can go.
“What is true is that people up here love the club, they will die for the club, they support the club throughout and they want to get some pride around the team and some victories.
“I’m sure every Sunderland fan would like to see the club winning a cup over the next few years.
“Why? Because we all know it happened a long time ago and ‘73 is there for ever.
“That shows you how committed they are and how much they need us if we have a chance to do it and give them something to be proud of.
“But I don’t think we can aim for anything other than starting to win football games.
“The best managers make the most good decisions. That’s what I need to do.
“Then you can judge me depending on how we do. Time will tell.
“But I am convinced that we have a big chance of staying in the Premier League.
“I’m convinced that what we do works so now it’s up to me to make sure the players embrace this philosophy and way of training, living football, playing football and winning games.”
Poyet’s philosophy at previous club Brighton – where he remained evasive over the manner of his departure from the Amex – was an attractive one.
The Uruguayan’s system on the south coast centred around ball possession and playing out from the back in a 4-3-3 formation.
But the 45-year-old insists he has to be far more pragmatic initially at Sunderland after taking charge of a side cast six points below the water-line in the relegation scrap.
Poyet says introducing a specific style has to wait for the Black Cats, with his primary objective to plug the holes in a defence which has leaked 14 goals over the last five Premier League outings.
“This one is about winning games and then slowly we will bring the philosophy in,” he said.
“To change now from one day to the next and try something totally new would be crazy.
“But the better it goes, the easier it will be.
“To stop losing games, we need to stop conceding goals and score a few. That’s common sense.
“Right now, we’re conceding too many – three, three, three, three, two. It’s too many.
“If you concede that many goals per game in the Premier League, you’re going to have little chance of winning games.
“It’s something we need to address defensively in terms of organisation, decisions, picking the right team and putting the right players in the right positions.
“Then slowly, you can start building the way we want to play.
“It’s a process. How quick it can go depends on the players.”
Poyet believes the mental battle will be the initial challenge for Sunderland’s players under his stewardship.
While Di Canio immediately embarked upon a gruelling fitness regime, Poyet’s focus will be on embedding his ideas into the squad.
“In the next few days, there will be plenty of information both ways, but especially from me to them,” he added.
“They need to open up their minds and be receptive and really try to understand what we need.
“The sooner we get connected, it’s going to be easier.
“Of course, there’s things that we need to put right. The reason we are bottom is not because everything is right.
“I think I know how to do it and I hope I can do it very quickly.
“But I need to make sure I use the time right now.
“Make sure the players come back from the internationals fit and even if they are tired, open their minds and start listening to me a lot.
“It’s information. It’s mental now, forget about the physical and technical side.
“Now it’s all about mental strength. We need to be very strong, but at the same time relax.”