SAFC tour diary: How Gus felt like Santa Claus!

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet in Portugal on Saturday night
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet in Portugal on Saturday night
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GUS POYET cut a frustrated figure for much of Sunderland’s stint in Portugal, before his mood significantly lightened on Saturday night as a transfer breakthrough approached.

But even when the search for signings left Poyet feeling blue, it didn’t affect his sense of humour.

The three of us from the North East press pack who covered the trip to Portugal sat basking in the sun at Sunderland’s training ground the other day, waiting to interview various members of the squad.

Poyet wandered up to us with a dead-pan look and said slowly: “You three, look like typical English tourists” before producing a wide grin.

After a week of fry-ups, karaoke and sun burn, he may have had a point...

EVEN the Sunderland team bus breaking down on Saturday night couldn’t dampen Poyet’s spirits.

An electrical fault with the doors to the luggage compartment left the coach stationary and Sunderland’s squad were forced to come back into the Albufeira Stadium to seek shelter.

It didn’t take long for the straggling supporters to spot Poyet sitting in the foyer and the mobiles quickly came out for a photo opportunity alongside the Black Cats boss.

Poyet was superb with the fans, regardless of their levels of inebriation.

He sat with babies on his knee. He put his arm around middle-aged men. He even joked that he felt like Santa Claus.

It’s difficult to imagine either Martin O’Neill or Paolo Di Canio doing likewise.

SUNDERLAND’S squad were given permission to let off a little steam at the end of a 10-day stint in Portugal where the Black Cats players have put huge amounts of graft in.

Rather than the prison camp which Di Canio oversaw, it was a sensible piece of man-management from Poyet.

After all, part of these pre-season tours has always been for new-look squads to form a bond together.

But there was a slight fashion faux-pas from rookie keeper Joel Dixon, who travelled with the first-team squad as back-up to Vito Mannone and Costel Pantilimon.

Dixon had brought a limited wardrobe to the Algarve, other than his training gear, and was forced to wear his neon yellow swim shorts for the get-together.

They were better than a pair of Speedos... but only just.

IT’S NOT really cricket to praise colleagues from rival organisations.

But a word has to go to the Chronicle’s James Hunter.

A six-year-old girl approached Poyet on Saturday night and asked him what he did.

Poyet looked blankly before turning to James, who sharply replied: “Miracles”.

“Yes, that’s it,” nodded Poyet.