Gus Poyet reveals why Lee Congerton's sporting director role failed - and the signings Sunderland missed out on

Gus Poyet believes Ellis Short's decision to have a sporting director in charge of signings did not work during his time at the club.

Thursday, 15th November 2018, 1:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th November 2018, 1:39 pm
Former Sunderland manager Gus Poyet.

And he cites Lee Congerton’s efforts in the summer of 2014 when loan players Marcos Alonso, Fabio Borini and Ki Sung Yueng were missed out on, as a case in point.

As well as signings not going through, or going through too slowly or too expensively, the Uruguayan also felt that when players were missed out on, similar targets weren’t sourced and brought in to replace the original targets - which held Sunderland back.

Former Sunderland manager Gus Poyet.

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In this extract from ‘The Managers - Tales from the Red and Whites, Volume 3’ he recalls his close-season disappointment ahead of the 2014-15 campaign:

“It was a bad summer,” he said.

“I am sorry - Marcos Alonso (deal) was easy.

“We had the money, it should have been easy for us to sign him.

“Fabio Borini was nearly done for me. In my head it was done, I think.

“Did we wait for a little too much? Maybe. I don’t know.

“Ki was no chance - he was priced at £10m at that time. “So one was impossible, one was a problem with timing, I think, but Alonso was easy to do and we didn’t do it.

“I had signed a new contract and my idea was to bring in specific players for the way I wanted to play. I had a base and by adding the right players I felt it would make it easier to play the way I wanted to play.

“Obviously, Lee Congerton comes in - it is his first job as a sports director after something he learned in his past with Frank Arnesen and he wanted to impose a style of direction, and I didn’t like it.

“I thought it was important to listen to me.

“I had been there for eight or nine months at that time - but sometimes the manager cannot get what he wants and I had to accept that.

“Recruiting well is having a player in a position who has the characteristics of what the manager wants to put his system into play.

“If you bring that player then it is about me, the manager. I am responsible for everything. If we lose, I say: ‘I am the problem’.

“But you just cannot put luck into recruitment. It is the most important part of football.

“If you recruit well, you have got half of the job done. It was a shame that the following season didn’t work because I think we had the chance to really start building something at Sunderland.

“What I couldn’t achieve in my second year was to control the game like I wanted to control it - that was because I lost a very important player in Ki.

“We didn’t find the player who could do that.

“We didn’t get that player who could bring certain qualities into a midfield that controlled the game the way I wanted to control it. People say that I didn’t have a good relationship with Lee Congerton.

“But I think I had a great relationship with him.

“The problem was that he saw football in one way, and I see football in another way.

“At the end of the day, we all lost: the club, Lee Congerton, me, the players, everybody.”

* Tickets for the book launch of The Managers, at the Stadium of Light on Friday, can be bought here, or fans can walk up to the Stadium of Light on the night and pay on the door.


Gus Poyet led the club to possibly it’s greatest ever Great Escape from Premier League relegation in the 2013-14 campaign.

But two of the most vivid and special memories of his time at the club came not just from avoiding the drop or even a Capital One Cup Final appearance in his 18 months in charge, but in beating Newcastle United at St James Park in the derby and beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in a memorably error-strewn penalty shoot-out to reach the cup final

In these extracts from the new book ‘The Managers - Tales from the Red and Whites, Volume 3 - which is launched this Friday by fellow bosses Malcolm Crosby and Peter Reid (tickets here: - Poyet relieves those moments:

On beating Newcastle 3-0 away in February 2014:

“I think that we went there with the knowledge that we were already in a better situation.

“We were feeling confident after the 4-1 win at Fulham, and now things were happening constantly, we were coming together, we were solid.

“We also had that special mentality to play against Newcastle.

“Paolo Di Canio won there 3-0 the year before, we had beaten them at home with that great goal by Fabio Borini, and so we were now thinking ‘We are going to beat them again’.

“One of my best times at Sunderland happened to me that day.

“We beat them. Outstanding.

“There was an unbelievable celebration in the dressing room, obviously, and then I go into the Press room and then I go back out and the stadium is empty - except for the Sunderland fans.

“ I was on my own, and it was spectacular - one of the best moments I ever had with the Sunderland fans.

“I was the only one in front of the whole group of supporters and I wanted to run into the corner to join them - but unfortunately it was closed.

“I only had 30 seconds with them and I was whistling to them and celebrating with them.

“It was incredible.”

On beating Manchester United on penalties to reach the Capital One Cup final:

“We talk about emotions and how they change during a game.

“Explain those last minutes at Manchester?

“I can remember when we missed the first two penalties, I went over to our fitness coach, Antonio Pintus, and I said to him: ‘We have got no chance! We cannot miss the first two penalties and win’.

“But, incredibly, it happened.

“I think it is probably the worst penalty shoot-out ever in history in England, no?

“We won 2-1 after five penalties each!

“That night was a great night for the club and the players.

“When you win a match like that and you celebrate like that it brings along something extra.”

* Tickets for the book launch, this Friday at the Stadium of Light, when issues from the book will be discussed, can be bought here, or fans can walk up on the night and pay on the door.