SUNDERLAND’S dogged resolution against Tottenham provided a welcome sight for Gus Poyet.
There was nothing attractive about what was, at times, one-way traffic towards the Sunderland penalty area, as a hugely impressive Spurs side effortlessly found space in midfield.
But Poyet saw the leaders in the Black Cats’ ranks rise to the challenge and ensure there was no tame surrender, despite the superiority of the visitors.
For the Sunderland head coach, that is just as crucial to a successful side as any tactical cunning or preparations on the training ground.
“When you’re setting up a style of play, you cannot only rely on playing well because you know that as soon as you play bad, you’re going to lose the game,” said Poyet.
“I always say that there are games that are going to be difficult.
“I can help them by making a couple of changes which work or not.
“But most of the time, it’s down to the team and the leaders – the Lee Cattermoles – making a couple of proper tackles and bringing the whole of the crowd up.
“Even getting a yellow card, which is part of the game.
“And then the players coming on can make an impact.
“But I think the mentality is great.
“They never gave up – they accept sometimes that we need to fight a bit harder.
“You work on things and try to convince your team of things.
“You can do a lot. But until it happens, you’re not going to achieve that.
“When you have a bad day at the office and the opposition is better than you, they need to work it out and somehow get something from the game.
“Those kind of situations happened a lot on Saturday. There were moments when it was very hard for us.”
However, Poyet was impressed by his former club, particularly the performance of Mousa Dembele, who pulled the strings from the middle of the park.
Poyet added: “We saw the best of Dembele and if Dembele is good, there are not many in the Premier League as good as him.
“That makes a difference in any team.
“I spoke to people who worked with him at Fulham and they said he was one of the top three midfielders in the league.
“That showed you the quality he has got – the strength, power and ability.
“To compete with him... if you’re not a good team or a fighter, you’re going to have a problem.
“Every time he got the ball, he was very difficult to stop.”
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