A TIRED sigh escaped the lips of Gus Poyet as he took a pew with the local press this week.
The demands of a ludicrously hectic fixture schedule, coupled with the constant phone calls of the January transfer window, make this the most draining period of the season for Premier League managers.
But setting aside the fatigue, Poyet has relished this week’s opportunity to properly work with his players, without the demands of a midweek game for the first time since early December.
The seven-day break between matches has also given the head coach chance to take stock of the progress under his stewardship.
After last Saturday’s victory at Fulham left Sunderland just one point adrift of safety, Poyet’s methods have clearly transformed the Black Cats’ prospects to the extent that survival now looks a very realistic possibility.
“I don’t think there is a right or wrong way of doing things,” said Poyet, on his rejuvenation of the club.
“But it’s a whole package. It’s the way we believe we need to do things, how we treat people, how we make the players feel, how we train and how we connect with the fans.
“I’m convinced it works. It’s our style.
“It worked massively at Brighton because we went from 20th in League One to fourth in the Championship in three-and-a-half years and we went from 7,000 people to 30,000 people.
“But when I think about my first game at Swansea, 4-0 down, and then my last game at Fulham, 4-1 up, it’s obvious there’s been a change.
“I’m pleased because even if you are convinced (with your methods) you don’t know how long it will take.
“But I’m pleased we’re in a situation now where there are plenty of people who think we can be safe, whereas two months ago, people were saying we had no chance. That’s a great feeling.
“Now we need to do it. We’ve not done enough yet and the only way is to keep winning.”
The incentive of staying in the Premier League offers obvious rewards from both footballing and financial aspects.
And if Sunderland can achieve that feat, Poyet predicts that next season will offer a stark contrast to the repeated lows of this campaign.
Poyet added: “It’s so important to stay in the Premier League. It’s difficult to explain how much of a difference that would make for everybody.
“If we stay in the Premier League, then next year will be beautiful.
“Everything will be different – the set-up, the players, the pre-season, the way we play and the understanding.
“It has to be better for sure.
“Now we need to make sure that we do it.”