GUS POYET sat mute, arms-crossed at the front of the plane heading out of Southampton airport.
An hour later, after touchdown in Ponteland, Poyet was first down the steps, straight through the arrivals lounge and into his car, without even uttering a word of goodbye to his backroom staff.
His drive back to Wearside was done in silence.
The hands-free kit went unusually unused.
After a restless night, Poyet had watched back the Southampton game by 10am and made a note of the clips he wanted to show his players,
Then he quickly moved on to viewing the DVD of Arsenal’s 2-2 draw against Hull City. Anything to take his mind off the shambles he had witnessed at St Mary’s.
There was no extra training for Sunderland’s squad last Sunday.
The players had their normal day off. Poyet would probably only have said something he regretted anyway.
Even when they returned to work at an eerily quiet Academy of Light on Monday morning, Poyet left most of the work to fitness coach Antonio Pintas for a pre-planned session on assessing the conditioning of the squad.
It wasn’t until Tuesday before training – almost 72 hours after the 8-0 drubbing – that Poyet addressed the players and took them through the video nasty of the Southampton game.
The Sunderland boss got everything off his chest.
He needed to before focus could turn to making amends against Arsenal.
Poyet said: “People said are you training on Sunday? I said ‘no, I don’t want to see them’.
“Probably a few fans would think they deserve to train on Sunday. But that was my decision.
“On Tuesday, we had a unique and unexpected meeting that I’m not a great fan of, looking at so many negative things.
“But there are exceptions and this was a clear exception.
“After that in training, we tried – it’s not easy – just to think about Arsenal.
“If you just think about last weekend, you’ll go nowhere.
“Yes, it was very quiet.
“It was as quiet as I can remember.
“It wasn’t easy for anyone, for the club, for anyone in here, but also for the players.
“They were on the pitch.
“If I was on the touchline and I felt so embarrassed, imagine the players on the pitch.”
Poyet is clearly still hurting from the humiliation at Southampton.
He seems to almost be as stunned, as he is disappointed, at such an appalling result coming out of the blue after Sunderland’s previously solid start to the campaign.
And while he is attempting to switch the narrative onto tomorrow’s visit of Arsene Wenger’s Gunners, the Uruguayan knows that whether Sunderland win, lose or draw, everything will continue to revolve around Southampton.
The midweek Champions League results didn’t help, with Bayern Munich’s 7-1 win in Rome offering an unnecessary reminder.
“There were so many 6-0s, 7-1s that now it looks normal,” said Poyet. “I’m sorry, it’s not normal.
“I don’t know what is going on in football.
“I don’t know whether the team winning 4-0 goes to another gear, but it’s happening too many times.
“It’s something wrong.”
While Poyet questions the “fighting spirit” of his side at Southampton, he is not trying to escape scot-free himself.
The former Brighton manager’s substitutions, in particular, were questionable, with midfielder Liam Bridcutt enduring a torturous afternoon as a makeshift right-back after replacing a fully-fit Wes Brown.
Taking off Seb Larsson, too, removed one of the few players still eager to close down the Saints.
When asked about whether he regretted those changes, Poyet slightly dodged the answer, but admitted that he had done some soul-searching.
“I first analyse myself all the time,” he said.
“Winning, losing, drawing, important games or friendlies.
“That is done and dusted and I know clearly.
“Then, of course, you do it for a reason and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
“It’s not about one action. It’s about the general impression of a football team on the ptich.
“The rest, sometimes you need to accept mistakes – the goalkeeper, the number nine or the manager.
“But the overall desire, fighting spirit, plenty of things that you should have as a basic, that is the one to worry about.”
Far from being daunted at the task of facing one of last year’s top four seven days after being routed 8-0, Poyet believes the fixture may be the perfect one for Sunderland.
The visit of one of the big boys will inevitably prompt a raucous atmosphere inside the Stadium of Light, with Sunderland unbeaten on home turf so far this season in the league.
Poyet said: “It’s a good game after an 8-0 because it’s going to be tough and you need commitment in front of a full stadium.
“If you play a different team, it might be a little bit quiet.
“It’s about doing the right things.
“I’d prefer to play at home and against the biggest teams.
“Why? Because you know what you’re going to expect.
“But if there’s even 25 per cent of the performance from last week, it’s going to be a disaster.
“The improvement needs to be massive.”
However, even if there is a response from Sunderland’s players tomorrow – and there is surely likely to be one – Poyet will bide his time before passing judgement.
He believes it will take a couple of months before Southampton can be assessed in context.
“I just want to play the game to prove we are the team that I thought we were before 3pm last Saturday,” added Poyet.
“The motivation side shouldn’t be an issue this weekend.
“We haven’t changed too much because of one game.
“We just have to make sure we go in the best way to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
“Then we need to wait and see.
“If, in 10 games time, it’s a one-off, an anecdote, then OK. We can put it down to an accident.”