Poyet is the right fit for Sunderland

Gus Poyet.
Gus Poyet.
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ELLIS SHORT faced a thankless task when drawing up the shortlist to be the next Sunderland head coach.

With no obvious candidate and no firm favourite on the terraces, the Sunderland owner was always going to leave some supporters aggrieved at his choice.

But providing Poyet’s appointment is rubber-stamped by Sunderland today, the Uruguayan will receive a nod of approval from the bulk of supporters, even if it is not the overwhelming euphoria prompted by Martin O’Neill’s decision to put pen to paper.

Short was right to take a fortnight to cast over the options, without letting the process and uncertainty drag on any longer.

This was a decision that couldn’t be rushed.

And once Roberto Di Matteo ruled himself out of the race, Gus Poyet was always the front-runner to succeed Paolo Di Canio, particularly as he enjoyed the support of director of football Roberto De Fanti.

It is perhaps harsh on Kevin Ball given the improvement in performances under the caretaker-manager’s stewardship, particularly considering Sunderland faced the reigning champions and the joint leaders during his two league games in charge.

But Poyet is arguably the candidate who best fits Sunderland’s brief for a new head coach.

The 45-year-old is very much the young, “tracksuit” manager that Sunderland were searching for.

He is a multi-lingual solution for a multi-national squad and has worked under a director of football system at Tottenham, albeit he was only an assistant to Juande Ramos at that stage.

And although he hasn’t plied his trade as the main man in the dug-out at Premier League level, he has worked his way up the footballing pyramid far more gently than his predecessor.

Poyet has made no secret of his desire to manage Sunderland either and given the current state the team find themselves in, that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The reservations over Poyet essentially centre on the manner of his departure from Brighton at the end of last season.

Had Sunderland turned to the Uruguayan after wielding the axe on O’Neill in March – when he was very much in the frame alongside Di Canio – then his appointment would have received far more applause for Sunderland taking a chance on a young, progressive manager.

But after the volatile reign of Di Canio and his explosive exit, Sunderland followers are understandably wary of appointing another overseas import – albeit one with a far more reasonable temperament – who left his former employers in acrimonious fashion.

Poyet’s suspension after Brighton’s defeat to Crystal Palace in last season’s play-off semi-finals, and the subsequent legal dispute which followed, was a sour end to an overwhelmingly successful spell on the south coast though.

That cannot be ignored when considering Poyet’s credentials.

The former Chelsea midfielder took a middle of the road League One side and admittedly with a few quid, took them into the Championship promotion picture.

A return of 86 wins in 194 games was achieved with a swagger and included victories over both Sunderland and Newcastle (twice) in the cup competitions.

Certainly, having seen Brighton’s win over Sunderland in the 2011 League Cup – to heap more pressure on then Black Cats boss Steve Bruce – it was evident that Poyet had assembled a hungry, attractive side, playing with a distinct brand of patient, attacking football.

Poyet disputed “every allegation and accusation” he was accused of by Brighton after he was sacked for gross misconduct by the Seagulls, who have opted not to clarify the reasons by their decision.

But it is thought there was friction with Brighton’s chief executive Paul Barber – appointed 12 months earlier – with Poyet growing disillusioned over the club making sounds about cutting the wage budget.

Short has ultimately decided that Poyet’s record – albeit in the Football League – merits an opportunity in the top flight, regardless of the baggage.

He is right.

Ultimately, whether Poyet can save Sunderland from the drop is all that matters.

Poyet will inherit a perilously precarious situation with Sunderland six points adrift of safety just seven games into the season.

But if he can achieve the wins necessary to overcome that deficit, then he will very much be the first-choice candidate on the terraces.