Allow me to begin this article by expressing my fondness for Gus Poyet. With the keep-ball mentality of Peter Reid, the likeability of Mick McCarthy and just a touch of the madness of Roy Keane, he is my favourite Sunderland manager. I'm not saying he's the best manager in my lifetime, statistics would suggest otherwise, but there's something about him that fills me with hope. Unfortunately, if we lose against Crystal Palace on Monday then he faces a situation where both the supporters and the boardroom may begin to turn on him, and that very rarely ends in any way other than the eventual P45.
It's only been two defeats in a row, 6 points dropped out of a possible 114, but a seed of doubt has now been planted and will be nurtured if we continue even one game further down this losing streak. Perhaps if we had started the season better, even an additional win to ensure we weren't in the relegation zone, then the circumstances wouldn't be as grave. With the re-acquaintance of our old pal the bottom three however, as well as the epic 8-0 thrashing, you'd have to consider Poyet's position to be as unstable as any manager's in the league, especially after how well we finished last season, the hope we once held, now dashed once again.
Ironic of course that I mention the word 'unstable' when that is exactly the word which could be used to describe Sunderland AFC over the past three seasons. Unstable in the league and unstable in terms of who is managing the team. Stability is something which the football club needs and stability will be the exact thing we sacrifice if we do part ways with Poyet, and I hope that it doesn't come to that.
An additional threat for Gus comes in the timing of the dip in form. We went on a 5 game losing streak in March and April, but the last thing the club were going to do was sack another manager, you can't have three managers in one season and expect to be taken seriously, so Gus' job was never in danger during that period, and of course by the end of the season his position was untouchable. Now is a different story however; the November period can be particularly tough for a manager. Squad blend can no longer be blamed, nor can lack of match-fitness. Generally if a team is losing during this period then the manager will lose his job, giving the team enough time to pull it around by the end of the season under the guidance of a new gaffer. You all know this, it's just worth remembering. It's all part of the thought process of whether a manager should be sacked.
I'm aware a portion of Sunderland fans have already turned against Poyet, some of which have never been a fan of his, and I think that's unfair given that our two most recent defeats have largely been down to individual errors. However I do see a line of reason behind their feelings. It is of course not only the matter of us letting too many goals in; we aren't scoring enough goals either, and that can often come down to tactical errors or poor player recruitment, which in itself is a situation which lacks clarity. While I am a Poyet fan, I don't think we can simply brush these defeats under the rug and put them down to dodgy back-passes and own goals, Gus cannot escape all culpability.
Looking ahead on the fixture list we have Everton at home coming up, a game which we would do well to take anything from, so we must bear that in mind when looking at the Crystal Palace match. If we win against Palace then there will be no problem and the matter will be put to bed, we can subsequently afford a defeat against Everton, a good side, and it won't form part of a losing streak. If we lose to Palace however, with Everton the next game, then I think our manager's fate will be sealed. The club has shown a tendency not to hang fire on these decisions, and I'm almost certain that losing the next two games would be the end of Gus Poyet at Sunderland.
If our players have any sort of respect for the manager, they will play their hearts out on Monday night, knowing fine well that his job depends on their performance. They must remember that he's the one who saved them from the darkest moments in their careers under Paolo Di Canio, who led them to a cup final and who helped them perform a miracle.