clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Gus Poyet: What Can We Expect?

With Gus Poyet taking over the vacant Sunderland manager's post, we thought it best to get the lowdown on what the Uruguayan could offer to the Black Cats.

Richard Heathcote

With that in mind, we got in contact with journalist Brian Owen of The Argus, Brighton & Hove Albion's equivalent of the Sunderland Echo. Brian was able to experience Poyet's near four year reign from close quarters, and thus we felt he was the perfect man to offer us an insight into what we may come to expect should he take over on Wearside.

Firstly, what are your own thoughts on Gus Poyet as a manager? Do you believe he is ready for the Premier League?

Brian Owen: Covering Brighton in the Poyet-era was a footballing education. He showed us a whole new way of playing, talked the game at length and with real passion and (with support from those above him) sharpened the club into a more professional outfit. He was the perfect man to have here during the move from council-run athletic track to state of the art stadium.

Is he ready for the Premier League? Well, I think he is ready to give it a go. I suppose whether he turns out to be up to the job remains to be seen. But it would not surprise me if he did a good job. He has very strong footballing principles which might work better with the sort of player he could afford in the top flight.

What regard is Poyet held among Brighton fans now, following his acrimonious departure?

BO: Nothing like as high a regard as he was during his tenure here. He came to the club in November 2009 to fight a battle against relegation and successfully did that using by and large the players he inherited.

He also unearthed a couple of gems via loan deals and free agency but it was quite an English type of game. He only introduced what you would term "the Poyet way" of playing in the summer of 2010 and took League One by storm in 2010-11.

Supporters needed time to come around to his style of play but he was an absolute hero here right up until the final few days. I think it is easy to forget all that.

What of Poyet, the man? Obviously, Paolo Di Canio's man management skills, or lack thereof, aided his downfall at Sunderland. We know Vicente described Poyet as "the worst man in football," so can we expect more of the same? Is he too egocentric?

BO: Yes Vicente spoke in far from glowing terms about him and he can be ruthless. Others though, including a couple he let go, have spoken rather more glowingly. Almost all the players he had last season were men he hand-picked. One obvious exception is the defender Adam El-Abd – but he transformed him as a player. So I think there was strong allegiance to Gus in the changing room and that several players were angry with Vicente’s comments.

He is fantastic with the media and public and will generate a really positive buzz around your club if he comes and things go quite well.

There is that "egocentric" criticism of him in some circles here but I’m not sure he would be the same at bigger club. He would be stepping up rather than stepping down. Equally, he would not have that feeling that "I got this club to where it is now" which he perhaps had towards the end here.

He comes across to me as less mad than Di Canio and, for in the media, he was a joy to work with. (By the way, Vicente was an astonishingly good player, the sort Poyet might be able to snap up as free agents from overseas).

At Sunderland, Poyet will expected to work under a Director of Football who has almost full autonomy over the club's transfer dealings. Is he the type of character who would be able to do this without friction?

BO: Well he would know what he was letting himself in for. The rules and parameters would be in place when he arrived. At Brighton, the goalposts moved during his tenure. He wanted to be hands-on in all elements of the club which was fine when it was a small-time concern but changed when a head of football operations was brought in as the club grew almost overnight.

I think it really depends on who the DoF is and how much he can get his own way when it comes to deciding which players are brought in.

On the pitch, what can we expect from a Gus Poyet side? (In terms of general playing style, as well as tactical formations.)

BO: Patient build-up (which took fans here a bit of time to get used to), full-backs pushing on, central defenders who are comfortable on the ball and will split wide to receive it, deep-lying midfielder coming deep to get the ball, one winger (who might swap wings), one centre-forward (who might get isolated away from home), ball players in midfield, not as many goal attempts as you might want.

If it’s anything like here you would see some amazing football and the occasional hammering by a strong, physical team. Possession is key – his mantra is that the opposition cannot score if they do not have the ball.

If plan A doesn't go according to plan, does he have a good record of being able to change games for the better? (ie. by way of substitutions, tactical changes?)

BO: This is one area where he was criticised by fans and pundits alike. Substitutions were often made too late and he did not change things. Given that "Plan B" is often a way of saying "going long" perhaps that is not a surprise. And they did score some key late goals by sticking to their principles right to the end when the temptation might have been there to go more direct.

But Brighton’s record of never coming from behind to win a game from August 2011 until September 2013 underlines comebacks were not his thing.

On the flip side, they never lost after going ahead from Oct 2011 until the end of his tenure.

Are Sunderland taking another big risk if they appoint Gus Poyet at this moment in time?

BO: A calculated risk I’d say. As Brighton were.

It’s really hard to know how far he can push on as a manager but his record here, taking Brighton from the fringes of the League One relegation zone to fourth in the Championship, speaks volumes.

Finally, do you believe he can be a success at Sunderland?

BO: If success is keeping them up and playing good football, then yes. Really hard to say beyond that but I would not rule out the possibility of him being a Martinez-type figure and improving season on season.

And remember he was making a habit of beating Newcastle which I’m guessing would be a good start for you!

We'd like to thank Brian hugely for taking the time to chat with us. Find him on Twitter at @Brian__Owen.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Roker Report Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Sunderland news from Roker Report