The recent Hull and Aston Villa performances were so tactically inept, it is hard to fathom that they were under the same manager that lead us to the greatest of great escapes last season. It is difficult to understand how we have seemingly lost any ability to pass the ball and keep possession, given that these were the underlying principles of Poyet’s philosophy and something he suggested that he was unwilling to compromise on.
Gus has seemingly moved so far away from what he was trying to implement, that tactically the players just look lost. Over recent weeks it has been difficult to see any sort of plan on the pitch, as we have been out passed and out thought by tactical geniuses such as Tim Sherwood and Chris Ramsey. That being said, I don’t think Gus could have legislated for some of the spineless attitudes and defending we saw on Saturday in particular.
If we re-wind to last season the difference in our tactical nous, passing ability, defensive pressing and general unity was pretty startling. Gus had come in and given us the identity we had craved since the days of Reid, and it was fantastic to see the lads pass the ball with a style and swagger unfamiliar to most of us. We first started to see this in the City home game when Phil Bardsley scored the winner - here was a team where everyone knew their individual jobs inside out. Despite clamours from some fans to ‘get it long’, the players trusted themselves and each other to play their way out of tight areas and this was evident throughout the season.
For any fan (particularly those as long suffering as us), it is about dreaming of those moments of unrivalled ecstasy. Despite how wrong it has gone for Gus, I think it is important we recognise how many of these he gave us during his short tenure. From Borini’s winner in the home derby to Bardo’s goal at Old Trafford, he has given me moments where I have genuinely lost my head in the goal celebrations. If we compare this to the reigns of Bruce, O’Neill and Di Canio, I think Gus more than matches them on his own for giving us moments we won’t forget in a hurry.
Having entered a club and dressing room ‘on it’s knees’, Gus Poyet restored pride and passion back into our club for which I’ll be forever thankful. Despite losing his way in spectacular fashion, it is worth remembering that the moments previously mentioned don’t come around an awful lot as a Sunderland fan. Having taken another late season spin on the ‘relegation fire fighter’ roulette table, Ellis Short will be praying a few more of those moments are just around the corner.
Thanks for the memories Gus.