GUS Poyet is delighted with how much the Sunderland players have taken on board in his short time at the club.
The Uruguayan has been at the Stadium of Light less than two months trying to instill a whole new footballing philosophy into demoralised players currently on their third boss of the season.
But the Black Cats’ head coach says he has been thrilled with their response and hopes that things continue coming together in a challenging month for the club, starting at home to sixth-top Tottenham tomorrow.
“There are so many things that we can talk about in football – defending higher or deeper as we did so well on occasions against Aston Villa at the weekend, so many things – and everybody is embracing this way and doing it, which is fantastic for the manager,” said Poyet.
“So, credit to the players for that – it has been a tremendous effort by them.
“It does not happen overnight and it is inevitable we will have setbacks, but they are working hard and I feel we are going in the right direction.”
Having got the basis of a system going, Poyet admits he is reluctant to tinker too much with it, even though changes will have to be made as Sunderland embark on a schedule of nine games in 31 days.
“It is very hard in December,” he admitted.
“Sometimes you can rotate four or five at a club, but that’s not really an option for us because we have a way of playing and you need the right players for every game.
“We can make a few changes, but there are plenty of games coming up and the challenge for us is to keep playing the way we want while making the changes that are forced on us by the schedule or by injuries.”
In ringing the changes from time to time, Poyet is not afraid to make a bold call if he feels it is right for the team.
At Villa Park last weekend, for instance, he made three big changes – Andrea Dossena, Fabio Borini and Craig Gardner replacing regular first-teamers Ondrej Celustka, Adam Johnson and Jack Colback.
In particular, Colback being replaced by Gardner was a surprise, with the home-grown midfielder having started every Sunderland game up to that point.
Poyet observed: “Jack is very important to me, but I thought it was a game where I needed to play Craig, so I played Craig.
“And Jack probably wasn’t very happy, but Jack is Jack and has been so important for me in the middle of the park that it’s clear he’s going to be playing for me regularly.
“So I hope he took it the right way and didn’t take it personally.
“I want that to be the case with every player who doesn’t make the squad or is asked to sit on the bench – it’s business, not personal, where I am concerned and I have to do what I think is best for the team and the club match by match.”