If Gus Poyet is to become a success as manager of Sunderland, he will have to be willing to adapt as much as his players, as now is the time for substance over style at the Stadium of Light.
Up until March 30, the Black Cats were a Premier League club that many from the outside would have barely noticed they were there.
Since promotion back to the Premier League in 2007 under Roy Keane, they had only been involved in one relegation battle in the 2008/09 season, but they often had enough quality to make themselves safe before the business end of the season.
That changed when Martin O’Neill, a manager with a very impressive record and over 25 years of experience, was ditched for Paulo Di Canio, whose knee-slides, post-match rants and dictatorial discipline were commonplace in a turbulent period for the club, despite surviving relegation last season.
Sacking O’Neill to bring in the Italian was like leaving the wife for the mistress, relieving the boredom and getting that quick thrill, only to realise that the relationship can’t last in the long term.
Poyet’s appointment is also a relative gamble, as this is his first managerial job in the Premier League, but a number of reasons make him a stronger candidate than Di Canio was six months ago.
He learnt the trade before taking his first managerial job at Brighton and Hove Albion, as his role as assistant manager at Swindon Town, Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur gave him the knowledge of coaching in England before he was ready to go down to the lower leagues and work his way up.
Brighton, like Sunderland, were struggling in the relegation zone, albeit in League 1, when the former midfielder arrived, and he has experience of completely re-shaping a team and their results.
His time at the Sussex club began in November 2009, and in just under four years at the club his end of season stats were 13th and 1st in League 1, followed by 10th and 4th in the Championship.
The Uruguayan put his own stamp on the Seagulls, as they’re short passing game won them many plaudits, and they were just two games away from promotion to the Premier League when losing to Crystal Palace in the play-offs last May, so he almost made it to the top flight on merit.
Di Canio would point to his promotion from League 2 with Swindon in 2012 and that they were challenging for a second successive promotion when he resigned last February as reasons for making the step up last season.
Excess baggage came with the ex-West Ham player, and his antics overshadowed what he was trying to do with the football team , and his eventual sacking in September didn’t come as a surprise to many.
However, Poyet’s eventual fallout with Brighton last summer showed that a working relationship with him can also be fragile, though he has possessed he has the man management skills as well as the tactics to succeed as a manager.
But he simply doesn’t have that amount of time with the Wearsiders, and now is not a time for pretty football, but winning football.
Ellis Short and the Sunderland board must be aware of this, but when looking at the current managers who were out of employment in the English game, the former Chelsea and Tottenham midfielder may have been the best they could do, as Tony Pulis would have been the only potential boss who has a sustained Premier League record.
But they made their choice, and need to give him time to work with a new look team, and they shouldn’t give him multi-millions to spend in January, as this could lead to another difficult period of transition, as Queen’s Park Rangers were the example last season that a team made up of new signings takes time to gel.
Passing and possession stats will pale into insignificance if Sunderland are relegated at the end of this season, but it’s the man management Poyet has to get right before he starts imprinting any philosophy on the squad.
Time will tell if this is the right appointment at the right time for the North-East club, and this season will likely have a long-term bearing on Poyet’s future, as for him and Sunderland, it is make or break time.
If he learns from his predecessor’s mistakes and treats the players like professionals, while also understanding the difference in the quality of the opposition in the Premier League, then both parties could be a match made in heaven, so long as both show more patience than they have before.
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