GUS Poyet believes Sunderland’s crushing defeat of eighth-placed Newcastle United at St James’s Park underlines the fact that the Black Cats have turned the corner this season.
The addition of five new signings in the January window, along with the retention of former captain Lee Cattermole, will significantly affect the quality of the squad.
And he says that he and his coaching staff are now getting the best out of the players already at the club – with star man Adam Johnson the perfect example of what can be done if a coach uses a player to best effect and the player responds.
Poyet, who first coached Johnson when the winger was on loan from Middlesbrough to Leeds United in 2006, revealed: “Adam and I talked a little bit at the start of December.
“I said to him that there was a part of the responsibility that was Adam’s, and a part of the responsibility that comes down to the way we play.
“The way we play is my decision, and, for Adam to perform, we have to play a certain style of football.
“We need to understand when we need to use Adam, and in what areas of the field.
“There are plenty of things the team have to understand, not just one player, to take advantage of Adam’s ability.
“Slowly, we are learning to do that, though.
“Given the chance to attack full-backs in important periods of the game, Adam has the ability to do that.
“He has the ability to score.
“It’s a mix of responsibilities – we have to do our best for him and he has to do his best for us.”
Although he is happy with the way the players he inherited have progressed, he is also delighted to have new signings in and is particularly excited to have acquired Liam Bridcutt from former club Brighton.
And he is looking forward to having Bridcutt and Cattermole battling it out for the defensive midfield role between now and the end of the season.
“We understand football the same way,” he said of the Scotland international.
“For me, and for him, with the way we play, that role is very important.
“That’s why we are delighted to have Liam and Lee Cattermole in the squad.
“It was important to keep Lee.
“I cannot tell you how much, but it was a tough offer to reject that we had from Stoke.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but I have a very good relationship with the owner and I am delighted that we were able to keep him.
“I am sure we can still improve because I am sure we are going to be more brave and control the game better.
“Because the game at the weekend was the derby, and because Newcastle left the spaces they felt they had do, it became possible for us to create more chances than perhaps we should.
“But I am thinking that we can be that good many, many times, not just in one game where the occasion helped dictate the game.
“Are we a very good team now? I don’t know about that.
“But I think we are much better than we were. I think we have improved.
“The players are convinced too and are enjoying what they are doing.
“They have to do it week in, week out, though, and do it every day in training.
“It’s about doing it all the time.
“It’s very easy to say that, but to actually do it all the time is difficult – but that is the plan.”