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Gus Throws Down The Gauntlet For Sunderland Reform

Why listening to Poyet may just be the cleverest thing Sunderland can do right now.

Alex Livesey

The internet can be a confusing place. As Gus Poyet's press conference which included the words "I won't quit" was taking place, tweets were emerging from one particular reporter which very clearly claimed that the Uruguayan was steadfastly refusing to commit his future to Sunderland.

But the truth is that Poyet wasn't refusing to commit, he was challenging the club to allow him to. He was firing an early shot across the club's bow in a power struggle to mold the club's future.

You put across your situation and they put across their situation. Then you discuss things. That doesn't mean you don't want to be here or you're going against the club. I'm just trying to get the best situation for Sunderland - but also for me.

If I can get certain things in place and certain standards, then I know I'm going to be able to do my job better. For those standards to be there you need a certain group of players with a certain mentality.

The idea is to put things right and I would rather push to make things better than accept them as they are. That means caring, finding solutions, making the place better, convincing other people about what’s needed.

There is really no risk because I want the same as the other people at the club. People can call it a risk because I am trying to put things right in my manner, but why is it a risk? Because I might lose my job?

I am going to lose it anyway if we keep losing.

There has been an awful lot said about Poyet in recent weeks. Speculation has been rampant as to whether he even still wants his job, never mind of he'll actually keep it. There have been accusations that he doesn't care for the club or has the stomach for the challenge. He has, in all fairness, been a tough man to read of late.

But in the apparent madness, there is a strong hint of method in Poyet's words. By washing his hands of the mess he inherited, he hopes to protect himself enough to be seen as the man to fix it. It's a high stakes game, and one in which he has risked alienating the supporters with what is a perceived refusal to accept accountability, but it's one he is astute enough to know he needs to win.

History has made that abundantly clear. Both Martin O'Neill and Paolo Di Canio have arrived at the same point at which Poyet currently finds himself. They knew Sunderland needed to embrace change on a massive scale, not just in terms of the playing staff but the very culture of the club. They failed to truly persuade Ellis Short that they were the men to deliver it and it cost them their job.

It's not a fate that Poyet intends to share.

You can understand his frustration too. At the end of the day, it's easy to blame the manager. Clichés roll off the tongue, as is their nature, and the man picking the team is a very easy target to angry eyes.

That's a position we have been in before a little too often over the last couple of years. And yet, though we have been able to satiate our fury by seeing managers pay the price for rubbish results, it's an unavoidable fact that results haven't really changed.

They have all had a go at it, too. With Steve Bruce, Martin O'Neill, Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet, you have pretty much stomped up and down the whole of the football management spectrum. We are talking about four big characters and four very different ones. How much longer are we going to pretend that the one thing that connects them all - failure to breath life into Sunderland - is just a mere coincidence?

How long before we instead start looking for common denominators within the club itself that may be influencing the manager? I'm not sure we have the luxury any longer of indulging ourselves in the comfort of coincidences.

It's not about a witch hunt either, not that we could agree on who to chase down with our torches and pitchforks anyway. Ask half a dozen random Sunderland fans who is responsible for the position of the club today and you'd likely get half a dozen different answers.

I couldn't tell you what is definitively wrong, and I don't think any of us are truly in a position to know. But Poyet just might be. What is more, he seems to have a clear plan and blueprint for fixing it. It's more than any new manager, Kevin Ball aside, would be in a position to offer this summer.

I hope that the power struggle that Poyet clearly anticipates doesn't materialise. If it does, I hope he is able to wrestle sufficient power (not necessarily total power) to truly invest himself in the future of Sunderland. Because there is one thing I think we can all agree with Gus Poyet over - we can't just keep going on like this. We just can't.

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