FORMER Sunderland boss Malcolm Crosby says he does not envy Gus Poyet the difficult selection decisions he will have to make for this weekend’s Capital One Cup final.
But he says the Uruguayan will do the right thing and – just as he did in the 1992 FA Cup final – and make the tough choices for the right reasons.
The 59-year-old, who is currently chief scout at Lee Clark’s Birmingham City, still follows Sunderland closely and will be watching the final on Sunday, even though he will be in Spain.
And Crosby says that although a cup final is always a great occasion for the fans, it comes with great responsibilities for managers.
“You reach a cup final and you can find that you have some difficult decisions to make and I’m pretty sure Gus Poyet might find himself in a dilemma or two,” said Crosby, who was in charge of the Rokermen following Denis Smith’s departure in December, 1991, until leaving 13 months later.
“It’s only natural and managers have to face those decisions all the time, but I think it is tougher for big games like these.”
Crosby faced several big selections decisions of his own as he prepared to lead Sunderland out against Liverpool in the national stadium on May 9, 1992.
The biggest decision was who to start at left-back – and it was a decision which broke Paul Hardyman’s heart.
“I faced it with Paul Hardyman in particular in ’92,” recalled Crosby.
“I felt he had struggled in the games leading up to the cup final and I thought we might need more pace in the middle with Ian Rush playing, so I went with Gary Bennett and Kevin Ball, shifted Anton Rogan and that meant that Paul Hardyman had to be left out.
“People might think, ‘oh, Malcolm Crosby, nice guy, pretty easy-going’ but I proved that day that maybe I’m not because I had to make that horrible decision and I made it. If there was a consolation, it was that I got him on the pitch later on in the game and he deserved that.
“But you have to make decisions with your team, I did that and I’ve got no doubt Gus Poyet will do exactly the same.
“It’s good that he’s got so many of his fringe players in decent shape with the changes he’s made in the last few weeks because that will be important in the league games too.
“But it might also mean he’s got a few difficult selection decisions to make on cup final day.”
Like Crosby 22 years ago, Poyet has been in charge of Sunderland barely four months yet finds himself at Wembley.
And Crosby says that although the head coach will be concentrating on being professional and focused and nothing else, he hopes the former Brighton boss is still able to enjoy the day and appreciate the achievement.
“It remains an amazing honour to have led Sunderland out at Wembley,” he smiled.
“I will never better it.
“When you think of all the top managers down the years who have never led their team out at Wembley and I’d been in the job, what, a few months?
“There are a very lucky, small number of managers who enjoy the experience of going there quite regularly but for most of us who get the privilege, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
* Football Echo Cup Final Special on sale now!