Friday spotlight: Shrewd Poyet gets the whip hand at Sunderland

Gus Poyet
Gus Poyet
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THERE’S a saying that a camel is simply a horse designed by a committee.

It’s a neat way of suggesting that while many hands may generally make light work; sometimes they just makes an unholy mess.

This is something worth bearing in mind as Sunderland approach their second transfer window with their new director of football at the helm.

Previously, Sunderland’s recruitment policy was simpler – it was determined by the manager’s discussions with the owner, informed by the views of scouts.

Now the dynamics have changed completely.

Now it is Italian former football agent Roberto De Fanti, previously with no connections to the Black Cats, who holds central sway.

it is De Fanti – yet to give his first interview to the Sunderland Echo – along with Italian chief scout Valentino Angeloni (another whose voice has not been heard in the local media) who are the power brokers at Sunderland Football Club these days when it comes to new arrivals.

New signings now require a committee approach, with the head coach describing the type of player he wants, Angeloni sourcing them, De Fanti offering them, the new head coach agreeing (or not) and then, after negotiations, Ellis Short being approached to buy them.

Poyet himself was good enough to explain roughly how it works to the Echo this week. “I’ve told Roberto my opinions about everybody and I’ve told him what I think we should be looking for,” he said.

“They will manage it and then I will start checking on them every now and then – I like to go see players live, if it’s possible.

“If we find them, then we’ll do it and the rest will depend on how we go.

“My situation is clear.

“I met with Roberto and Valentino and said what I think we need.

“They need to give me the options and I need to pick the ones I like

“We need to see if they are available and if they fit into the financial possibilities, then we will move forward.

“I would like to think it will be easy to see with the players who come in, whether I was involved or not.

“I’m sure it’s going to be done in the right way; in the common sense way.

“Everyone has a responsibility and then the player has to be the right one for me.

“If not, I’m not going to accept it.”

He did not give the impression he is love with this particular structure, but Poyet was quick to point out that it is relatively commonplace abroad.

To be fair, the system is not without its merits, especially if it is worked to the advantage of all.

It offers protection to the owner from spendthrift managers who could ruin a club if not curbed and reined in.

It also frees up coaches to coach, rather than to spend too much time on the road, travelling home and abroad to identify and watch new targets.

And it leaves the road clear for specialists to occupy themselves full-time with discovering and researching potential targets.

The proof of the pudding of any system though is always in the eating and, so far at Sunderland, no-one has been smacking their lips with satisfaction.

De Fanti’s influence has been apparent in the last two transfer windows and not, it has to be said, to the enhancement of his, or in the summer, Angeloni’s, reputation.

This column last week highlighted the fact that the summer’s transfer activity at the Stadium of Light was by no stretch of the imagination something to write home about so far.

To some extent, the jury has to be out on its success or failure, with only three months of the season gone.

But if there is an advantage going here, it is surely that the experience of the new system so far must surely have concentrated a little more power and influence into the hands of Poyet himself.

The Uruguayan may talk the talk when it comes to accepting the new regime, but it will not have escaped his attention that the transfer work of the summer has been more a hindrance than a help to Sunderland’s cause.

It will not have escaped attention either that, after operating largely under the radar since their arrival, the roles of De Fanti and Angeloni are now being openly scrutinised.

That might not stop them being power-brokers again in the January transfer window.

But if things don’t go well this time, they will not avoid the intense public scrutiny of either the media or the fans in its wake.

For that reason, it is to be hoped that De Fanti and Angeloni’s role will be to provide a supportive and supporting hand in the New Year, as should have been the case all along – rather than the whip hand, as appeared to be the case in the last close season.

De Fanti and Angeloni need a hit or two in the January transfer window, if the tide is not to threaten turning against them.

And though he has no axe to grind, that should suit Poyet just fine.

He’s a strong-willed man with firm opinions. Ultimately, it is his head on the block.

And it is only right that he should have the final say, along with Short, over exactly who the club brings in.

There was always a sense in the summer that it wasn’t the case with Paolo Di Canio.

Poyet’s words and his body language this week suggests he is too smart, too shrewd and too savvy an operator to let that impression gain ground again.

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