GUS Poyet praised his players for not only seeing Sunderland through to the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup but also for doing it HIS way.
The new head coach is slowly stamping his mark on a Black Cats side he inherited in complete disarray after a disastrous start to the season.
And although he knows it is a long, long way from the finished product, he felt last night’s display provided encouraging signs that Sunderland’s players are learning to play in the style he wants them to.
“There are plenty of things to be pleased with,” he smiled after the fourth-round victory against Southampton clinched a home quarter-final against the Uruguayan’s former club, Chelsea.
“It’s a cup competition in which we need to win a game, and we did.
“We’ve reached the quarter-finals for the first time in years, which is great.
“But the main thing for me is that we worked hard.
“I think we worked harder in this game than in the three previous games I’ve been here because the players were working hard mentally, as well as physically, to play the type of football we want them to.
“They kept passing and kept possession and kept working all the time and that was the key.”
Poyet put Sunderland out in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Ki Sung-Yueng playing in front of the back four and Jozy Altidore the lone striker, and the system seemed to prove helpful.
“I wanted them to be in positions where they could keep the ball better and make better angles,” he said. “The change in formation was part of that.
“But the main thing was that the players worked hard.
“Our style is new to the fans, so it was important to win to get the supporters to think about accepting it – I was pleased that we got the victory for that reason in particular.
“It took us 10-15 minutes to get into it and maybe we didn’t create too many chances in the first half.
“But I knew we were going in the right direction. I knew we would get chances eventually and I thought Jozy Altidore might have scored with his header, but thankfully Phil Bardsley followed it in.”