THE HAND-SHAKES and pats on the back have come in a constant stream for Gus Poyet this summer.
It’s no surprise. Poyet’s transformation of Sunderland from utter shambles to Premier League survivors, League Cup finalists and double derby victors, rightly saw him earn the plaudits as he wandered the streets of Wearside.
But the “miracle” which saw Sunderland somehow remain in the top flight over the final six games was overshadowed in the conversations Poyet had with supporters.
It was the memories of a first Wembley final in 22 years which captured the imagination.
Ahead of Sunderland beginning their Capital One Cup adventure all over again tonight, Poyet says that brought home to him the importance of the cup competitions for the Black Cats faithful.
“It’s incredible what people have been saying to me during the summer,” he said.
“They talk more about Wembley when we lost than about the miracle when we won.
“I don’t get it!
“But that’s how much it means to them.
“Normally it’s 20 years (between cup finals) so we’re going for two in a row. You’re asking for a lot!
“But we’ll try.”
It wasn’t just the positives stemming from Sunderland’s cup runs last season which have dogged Poyet.
Sunderland’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Hull City - when Poyet made six changes to his starting XI - remains one of the biggest criticisms of the Uruguayan’s 10-month reign at the Stadium of Light.
Poyet expects to make changes again for tonight’s Capital One Cup second round tie at Birmingham, with several of his fringe players in need of minutes.
But while the head coach remains a firm advocate of the rewards which the cup competitions can produce, he continues to defend his selection against the Tigers.
“I know people are still thinking that we picked the wrong team at Hull and that’s why we lost,” he added.
“That’s fine, I’ve got no problems with that.
“But there are reasons behind that. We were getting close to the end of the season and there were players who were not playing at all that I was expecting to be playing at the end.
“Ki (Sung-Yueng) was playing every game and in the last six games, he didn’t play.
“It was important for us to work out certain things.
“Yes, on the day it didn’t work and on other times it did.
“We need to make sure we pay attention to the cup, but also be realistic and realise it’s important to be consistent.”