GUS Poyet admits Sunderland’s January transfer dealings will determine whether or not they remain in the Barclays Premier League.
The Black Cats take a break from league action on Sunday when they host League One Carlisle in the FA Cup third round.
However, they will do so with work ongoing behind the scenes in a bid to strengthen the squad the Uruguayan inherited from predecessor Paolo Di Canio in October, with the club lying at the foot of the table and in serious danger of slipping out of the top-flight once again.
Asked if the success or otherwise of that mission would determine the destiny of their season, a frank Poyet said: “Yes.
“We have been there already with three different managers or head coaches or caretakers with this group of players, and the team is bottom somehow, so we need a little bit of help. We will see.
“We have been here now this season for five months - I am not talking about me, I am talking about the previous manager, Kevin Ball as the caretaker and me - with this group of players, and we are still bottom, so I want to change something.
“I am not going to go with the same group of players to the end because if not, it’s going to be more difficult.
“Now I need to choose well and make sure we get the ones who can really help us to change the season around, that simple.”
Director of Football Roberto De Fanti presided over a 14-man influx of players during the summer, but the deficiencies within the squad remain alarming and head coach Poyet is desperate for reinforcements.
The Black Cats are understood to be in negotiations with the 46-year-old’s former club Brighton over midfield duo Liam Bridcutt and Will Buckley having already completed the loan signing of Fiorentina full-back Marcos Alonso.
However, Poyet is refusing to discuss his targets publicly as agents bombard the club with offers.
He is also having to contend with speculation that some of the existing members of his squad could be tempted away from Wearside this month with Celtic and Hull having been linked with Scotland international striker Steven Fletcher.
A defiant Poyet said: “They didn’t call me and they didn’t make any offers, so it is speculation, rumours.
“It’s easy. I am interested in (Cristiano) Ronaldo. Apparently he doesn’t want to come to Sunderland, it’s too cold.
“We can say and talk and make opinions and go on TV and make it look incredible, that we want to buy this and that.
“But do it and then we will talk about it.”
In the meantime, Poyet will prepare his team for the first of two cup ties inside three days - Sunderland face Manchester United in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final on Tuesday evening - bemused by the scheduling.
He said: “I still don’t understand how you can play football again in two days, I don’t.
“I keep saying to the people in charge that if you want to see quality and the best players on the pitch, you need to give them a chance to recover.
“If not, then you make changes and people get upset and say you don’t care about one cup or the other. They invent things and they put us as responsible when the responsible ones are them for putting the fixtures up.
“Saying that, again they are professional players, Premier League players. We will see. Me, I am looking forward to the game.
“I remember one of my first games in the cup with Chelsea, there were so many reporters there taking pictures and I didn’t understand why.
“Then they told me, ‘They are trying to see if you are going to be the bad ones, the news on Monday, if you are going to be in the newspaper because you were knocked out by a League Two team or whatever, and it’s up to you to make sure that doesn’t happen’.
“We will see who is in the pictures on Monday.”