IN ALMOST a year-and-a-half at the Stadium of Light, Gus Poyet has not faced the flak that has come his way this week.
While there will always be occupational moaners calling for the manager’s head, the manner of the last two results have seen the Sunderland boss come under fierce fire; not helped by his post-match comments following defeats to QPR and Bradford.
That was what motivated Poyet – unprompted by the club’s PR department – to pen an open letter to Sunderland supporters earlier this week, where there could be no cause for misunderstanding.
The Uruguayan hopes by stressing his responsibility for Sunderland’s recent troubles and preaching a message of unity, he has dispelled some of the negativity swirling around Wearside, prior to today’s crunch clash against West Brom.
Judging by the initial reactions from supporters, Poyet’s message has been received favourably, although he could still do with coming away with three points against the Baggies.
But while Poyet acknowledges that the heat is on – with Sunderland a precarious two points above the relegation zone – he still feels the pressure was more intense in the darkest days of last season.
Sunderland took just one point from six Premier League games, plus were eliminated from the FA Cup, following their defeat in the Capital One Cup final last March.
And while the last two games have been miserable for the Black Cats, Sunderland are yet to appear in the relegation zone this season.
“The pressure is part of life,” said Poyet.
“I felt under a lot more pressure last year after we lost in the cup final and didn’t win for seven or eight.
“I didn’t write a letter last year because I didn’t have the feeling that it was the right thing to do.
“I thought this was the moment ahead of this game.
“And we know that if we win the next three or four, everything will be better and we’ll have the option to plan better.
“If for whatever reason we don’t, there’ll be pressure all the way.
“The good thing is that it’s in our hands.
“We’ve been in this situation before and we need to make sure that we don’t let things happen like the opening 20 minutes against QPR.”
As Poyet points out, Sunderland fluffed the chance to take a healthy step away from danger in their last Stadium of Light outing, when they became the first side to drop home points against QPR this season.
Instead, Sunderland find themselves yet again in the thick of the relegation dogfight – a position which Poyet admits he had hoped to avoid this season.
He said: “I know that when you get a bit better, we all want one more. Me first.
“There are plenty of things we need to improve.
“I said a few weeks ago that I thought we’d be better at this moment in time.
“For many reasons that I didn’t put in the letter, it wasn’t possible.
“We need to stick together and make the next few weeks the most important of the season.
“The letter won’t make us win, but I’m sure it will help to create the atmosphere that the players need to go and perform better. Nothing else.
“When there is a little bit of a division – whatever the quantity that exists – it affects things.
“I asked a lot from the fans last year, this year I’ve tried not to ask too much because it was our responsibility to give back.
“But it wasn’t to be. At the moment, it’s still not really good. We need to stick together for a little bit longer.”