Lee Johnson has not been in the job long, but his communication through the media and club channels to supporters has been an important factor in how he puts across the way in which he wants his team to play going forward.
Having suffered from watching Phil Parkinson’s brand of archaic football for over a year, it was important that whoever was appointed as his replacement had a strong, identifiable philosophy on playing good football - something that we arguably haven’t had at our club since Gus Poyet was in charge between 2013 and 2015.
Poyet - the man who led the club to Premier League survival and the final of the League Cup back in 2014 - was one of the main contenders to replace Parkinson last month, but ruled himself out of the running having held talks with the club’s board, with the 53-year-old not yet ready to return whilst we remain in the third tier.
Whilst Gustavo’s first spell on Wearside ended after a string of poor results, many supporters still look back on his time with the club fondly, largely due to what was achieved in a relatively short time.
For some, Poyet’s philosophy on playing represents the last time we knew what the plan was on the pitch - so with a return to the north-east mooted, the rumour and speculation obviously got people excited about what he could potentially do with a club this size in League One, with the backing of a young and forward-thinking incoming owner.
That said, not all supporters were convinced that re-appointing Gus would be a good move, with much of the doubt coming from fans who were sceptical about hiring a manager who has struggled to hold down a role elsewhere since leaving five years ago.
It led to me wondering what happened with Gus after he left Sunderland.
Quickly checking Wikipedia doesn’t tell the full story - and I’m sure that Gus himself will have his own version of events regarding his spells in Greece, Spain, China and France.
With that in mind, I spoke to people who watched Poyet at each of the clubs he’s managed since leaving Sunderland to learn more about his career, and to help me come to my own conclusions on whether he, in an alternative universe, might have been a good choice to lead The Lads back to the Championship this season.
AEK Athens: 2015-2016 - Sacked
Giannis Chorianopoulos: Greek sports journalist - @Choria80
Gus Poyet’s time at AEK Athens was short, but intense.
AEK, considered to be one of the most important and historical clubs in Greece, were promoted during the summer of 2015 back to the Super League. They played for two seasons in lower divisions for the first time in their history.
Traianos Dellas (European Champion with the National Team and scorer against Czech Republic at the semi final at Euro 2004) worked during that time as a manager, and AEK unfortunately didn’t have the results they actually wanted during the first months at Super League.
So, the administration had to change its direction and finally appointed Gustavo Poyet.
Poyet arrived in Greece and joined the team at an extremely awkward time for the club.
It was such an enormous response from media and fans. English football is very popular in Greece, and of course Poyet had been famous here both as a player and as a manager.
His successful spell at Sunderland and his coaching at Brighton brought the kindest comments, and Poyet was treated as a Premier League manager.
He stayed only for 6 months in Greece, but he was treated and shined like a star.
His analysis at the media was, really, high level and his tactical approach was different.
Trying to win matches over and over again, he was accepted from the fans and the media that he could be the manager who could make AEK Athens a title competitor again. On the other side, several fans didn’t like the way that AEK were playing. They ‘’accused’’ him of playing negatively, because AEK Athens’ main goal is to score.
From October 2015 to April 2016 he won 18 of 28 matches for AEK.
The strangest part was actually how Gus Poyet left - it was just only one day before the semi-final 2nd leg of the Greek Cup. There were a lot of stories and speculation, but if someone pays attention to Poyet’s interviews, they will understand that there were disagreements at the transfer policy.
Poyet made a statement that he would leave the club at the end of the 2015-16 season - apparently caught off guard, the club didn’t like this, and fired him just a few hours after, even though it was only one day before the big game.
At the end of the season, AEK won the Greek cup (2-1 v Olympiacos in the final).
That was strange, even for the Greek football.
In conclusion, regardless of Poyet’s significant mark in AEK Athens, (players, fans, media liked him and treated him as a top level manager), his time in Greece was not really long.
It seemed that his relationship with AEK was hard to maintain.
Real Betis: 2016 - Sacked
David Whitworth: Real Betis commentator - @DCWh1tw0rth
Gustavo Poyet was appointed Real Betis manager in May 2016 and signed a two-year-deal. I was there live at his unveiling to much fanfare in front of thousands of supporters at the club’s stadium. That night he spoke with passion and positivity, promising Real Betis to represent the province of Andalusia both home and away. It certainly made a good impression with supporters and our local media.
However, things quickly turned sour for the Uruguayan. Real Betis lost the first game of that season 6-2 at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, which is not a disaster considering the opposition and daunting scenario. Yet, it quickly became apparent he wasn’t getting the most out of the team, nor our main players such as Joaquín and Rubén Castro.
His main success was in matchday three with his first win with the green and whites: An impressive last minute victory at La Mestalla against Valencia 2-3 with a solid team performance.
That should have been the start of something, but it was the beginning of the end. Although Betis put up a good fight in the derby soon after, a 1-0 defeat was later followed by shipping six goals again, this time to Real Madrid. Again, not unheard of, but confidence was waning from the Real Betis board.
An away defeat at Villarreal 2-0 was the final straw and during that international break in November, Poyet was dispensed of his services. In total, Real Betis took just 11 points from 11 La Liga games under his tenure. Three of those were victories but his overall style of play didn’t convince as the team were disorganized and lacked in leadership.
Poyet seemed unable to find the right formula and blend for the team. He chopped and changed his starting 11 on several occasions and players never felt comfortable with his 4-3-3 formation. Some players were played out of position such as top scorer Rubén Castro, who was shunted onto the wing to accommodate academy prospect Alex Alegría, which simply didn’t work out.
Supporters and the media’s view of him in Seville are of a divisive character who never fully got to grips with the team, nor the club’s ethos. He clashed at times with the press and didn’t endear himself to the clubs’ supporters either as time went on. It was a spell which promised much, but yielded little.
Shanghai Shenhua: 2016-2017 - Resigned
Cameron Wilson: Wils East Football - @CameronWEF
I had dinner with Gus a couple of times in Shanghai so got quite a good angle on him.
His problems were pretty similar to what most foreign managers face in China - lack of power to make footballing decisions, and having to deal with cronyism and powerful senior player who may carry a lot of clout in the club and interfere with coaches’ plans.
He never told me any specific examples, other than certain players would often ignore his tactical instructions if they didnt like what he said.
One thing he told me which was interesting was at the end of 2017, just before he joined, Shenhua signed three players, Li Peng, Zh Jianrong and Wang Wei from Qingdao Jonoon.
This was controversial as this team had just been relegated to the third division, so it seemed odd that they could have three players good enough to play at CSL level.
He told me in pre-season training he would himself take part to keep himself fit. They divided the squad up into four groups, by level of fitness. Poyet was in the third group - and the three new signings in the unfittest group.
He thought it was ridiculous, so basically never picked these guys all year.
He said some of Shenhua’s Chinese players - Cao Yunding in particular - could have gone on to play at a high level in Europe had they been trained early. He was very effusive in his praise with this guy and said he was by far Shenhua’s best player. He’s right on this.
But Gus would never really be drawn on saying anything too revealing about what was going on inside the club. I think being there for less than one full season, he was always going to struggle to really get a handle on what was going on.
Bordeaux: 2018 - Sacked
Donatien Davy-Chantioux: @AccStanleyFR
Gustavo Poyet arrived in Bordeaux as the successor of Jocelyn Gourvennec. With the ex-French B and U21 international, Bordeaux struggled in Ligue 1 and weren’t able to qualify for the Europa League. The Marine et Blanc were beaten by Videoton (Hungary) during the summer.
Jocelyn Gourvenec lost his job after an infamous French cup’s defeat against Granville, an amateur club. At this time, M6 (owner of the Club since 1999) was trying to sell the club to an American buyer and Gustavo Poyet is the main choice of the (soon to be) new owner.
Gustavo Poyet started with some really good results, but soon after his team were unable to clinch a single win in seven games, and the objective of European qualification started to get away. But, with six wins in the last seven games, Girondins qualified for the 2nd round of the Europa League.
When he arrived in Bordeaux, Poyet had to manage a team built by his predecessor, but the squad wasn’t unfit to reach the club’s objectives. Benoît Costil (GK - French international), Jules Koundé (CB - plays for Sevilla now), Malcom (RW - plays for Zenit now), Martin Braithwaite (now in Barcelona) and Pablo (CB - Brazilian international) amongst others played under the ex-Uruguay international.
Under Poyet, they played in a 4-3-3 (or sometimes a flat 4-4-2) and European qualification was a success for his methods in Bordeaux, but he was there at a difficult time for the club. During the mercato, his team lost Malcom, sold to Barcelona for €42m and wasn’t able to bring in a replacement as good as the Brazilian winger.
Gustavo Poyet and the Girondins’ board didn’t have the most healthy relationship, and during the summer everyone could see something coming. Gustavo needed more quality in his squad, the Girondins weren’t able to buy and the only players coming in were loanees such as Sergi Palencia (Barcelona B), Yann Karamoh (Inter) and Andreas Cornelius (Atalanta).
The Girondins begun the European qualification with four wins in four games (and a defeat in Ligue 1). But after a victory against Mariupol (Ukraine), Poyet decided to speak freely during the press conference.
At this time, Gaëtan Laborde (striker) was on his way to Montpellier. In front of the journalists, he presented himself as a victim who didn’t know. He accused the president, the board and even the press officer of shielding him away from the truth.
For the fans, he’s saying the truth. For the board, he was not being honest, and in their view his press conference was a shame for the club. He was punished for his actions, and later relieved of his duties.
All in all, Gustavo Poyet was coach at Marine et Blanc for twenty-one games, where he won thirteen and lost six, and his time there is still a source of debate in Bordeaux.