Premier survival pivotal for Sunderland boss Poyet

Sunderland's manager Gus Poyet.
Sunderland's manager Gus Poyet.
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GUS Poyet insists that if it comes down to a choice between Premier League survival or cup glory – he’d choose the former over the latter every time.

But seeing as he is not convinced there has to be a choice involved, he’s happy for Sunderland to keep on winning in the knock-out competitions.

These one-off wins – with the 1-0 fifth round win over Southampton at the weekend just the latest – are bringing the feel-good factor back to Wearside, and Poyet knows that such a mood is a prerequisite of any successful side.

“My preference is to stay in the Premier League,” he said with refreshing honesty, before joking: “Apparently you are more famous if you win the cup and I’m happy not to be more famous!”

That was a reference to the statue of Bob Stokoe outside the Stadium of Light, created to commemorate the unforgettable 1973 FA Cup win.

But Bob never won a single top-flight game at Sunderland and winning top-flight games is Poyet’s sole obsession right now.

“The only thing on my mind when I first arrived at the Academy of Light at quarter-to-12 at night, or whatever time it was, was to keep the club in the Premier League,” he pointed out.

“I never thought about the cups.

“But we keep winning in the cups, so why not?

“The idea we are trying to have here is that we are a good team who can win football matches, who can beat good teams. If we keep winning in the cups then I have to welcome it because football is all about winning – and that winning feeling spreads throughout.

“We used to have a fear of losing when I got here; now we are playing to win.”

Poyet was dismissive of one suggestion that Sunderland’s cup form is becoming an “embarrassment” in comparison to the club’s league position.

But with the fixtures threatening to pile up, the last thing Poyet wants is for the cups to become a distraction or a detriment to league form.

“I still don’t understand how we keep winning in the cup but not in the Premier League,” he said.

“But every game is a cup game now – every Premier League game too – and I’ll be telling the players that ahead of the league game against Arsenal this weekend.

“On paper, the situation is going to be difficult for us, with another postponed game as a result of winning against Southampton.

“But the one good thing is that in the next two weeks we know we have only Arsenal and Man City – only two games in two weeks – and so we can prepare.”

As to how this increasingly remarkable Sunderland season might ultimately pan out, Poyet admits he remains as much in the dark as anyone else.

“I would love to know myself so I can book my summer holidays,” he smiled.

“If we go down, I will go hide somewhere in Asia!

“If we stay up, you will see me in every single paper because I will be somewhere famous, celebrating!”