Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Poyet the right man for the Stadium of Light?

Jobs in English football don't come much tougher than in the North East. A combination of a hugely loyal mainly working class (apologies for any stereotyping) fan base, excellent and often full stadiums and an insane amount of over expectation mean that the natives are regularly restless and more often than not are left hugely disappointed.

Middlesborough and Newcastle in particular have also been on huge roller coasters and images such as Juninho sat crying on the pitch after a Boro team containing he, Ravanelli and Emerson were relegated stick hugely in the mind, they also lost two cup finals that season.

Alan Shearer rejected ManU, joining Newcastle instead as they broke the transfer world record. He never won another trophy in his otherwise glittering career to add to the solitary one he won at Blackburn, but such is the loyalty these clubs garner. That Newcastle side of Lee, Ginola, Albert, Asprilla et all was a joy to behold but it was a fleeting passing.

Sunderland themselves are no strangers to disappointment. Eras such as that of Quinn and Phillips were failed to be built upon. Roy Keane looked to be the new Messaih on Wearside only for everyone to realise the only similarity was a big beard before he disappeared off to walk his dogs again.

Martin O'Neil looked a sound enough appointment for the Black Cats but again it didn't quite work out. Sunderland like their NE rivals suffer from a perennial identity crisis and lack of cohesive direction.

Newcastle and Sunderland in particular are huge institutions with huge crowds to match but everytime they place the bar higher they stumble and fall and invariably get relegated at some stage. It should not be the case.

O'Neil's reign came to an abrupt halt last season when the Sunderland management deemed theirs to be an irreversible slide and the shock therapy of the highly combustible Paolo Di Canio was seen as the required antidote.

Di Canio proved quickly what many believed him to be, a good coach but terrible man manager horribly out of his depth. Pampered superstars do not take well to being slapped around the head constantly and hauled in at 7am on Sunday mornings. It was never going to last.

Which leads us finally to the title of this piece, that of the appointment of Gustavo Poyet. Poyet of course was a hugely successful and popular player at Chelsea before going on to become a favourite at Spurs afterwards.

Poyet's coaching career kicked off alongside his ex Chelsea teammate Dennis Wise before a truncated spell back at Spurs alongside the ill fated Juande Ramos. It was at Brighton however where Poyet as a manager made his name.

Poyet's spell at Brighton was an excellent one before ending in acrimony after falling out with the chairman. In his time there he won promotion to the Championship at the first time of asking and pushed hard towards the Premiership, all the time playing good football.

For many Sunderland fans given the failed Di Canio experiment, the similarities may look too much to contemplate. Both were excellent Premiership players, both did well at a lower level in management and neither had or have Premiership experience.

The comparisons however should possibly stop there. Poyet after all whilst no shrinking violet is not as volatile as Di Canio and looks far more capable of compromise when required. He has received many awards from his piers, a sign that his methods are far more sustainable.

Many in the North East will be crying out for some good old fashioned British management, some grit and steel to sort out an under performing squad. That would possibly be all well and good were it an entire squad of Lee Cattermoles - but it is not.

The Sunderland board sanctioned a huge Di Canio and Roberto Di Fanti led Summer shopping spree meaning that the Black Cats' squad is one of the most cosmopolitan one in the league.

One must imagine that most of those players were signed with their technical ability in mind and therefore a coach with sound tactics and methods is the most pertinent appointment rather than an 'up and at 'em' approach.

It is hard to truly gauge the quality of the Sunderland squad given that so many of the new arrivals are an unknown quantity in terms of the Premiership.

Genuine quality did however leave in the shape of Mignolet and Sessegnon, the latter of which could prove an aberration by Di Canio and hugely representative of his ability to only deal in absolutes.

Poyet's job is of course a simple one, keep Sunderland up. Poyet it seems from his comments at Brighton is ambitious and should Sunderland be relegated even, his prospects there are far better in the Championship than they were with Brighton. Should he keep them up then the LMA awards may come calling again and his CV will have another gold star.

Given Sunderland's predicament it seems a choice that offers little to lose. If they go down they have a manager well versed in Championship football and with the promise of huge potential if they have got it right and they stay up.

Sunderland's folly was appointing Di Canio in the first place. He did keep them up but his record last season was also poor, he merely did less badly than a Wigan Athletic team hugely distracted by the FA Cup.

Sunderland however compounded this error by then re-assembling their squad presumably to his liking and then jettisoning him when that squad rebelled. Given that the stories coming out of Sunderland were of no surprise and sounded exactly the same as at Swindon, why appoint him in the first place? What they got is what they appointed.

Most or all of Sunderland's problems are of their own doing. Whilst Gustavo Poyet may seem like yet another high risk appointment, the reality is they are rock bottom of the Premiership with morale at an all time low. Hiring one of the brightest young coaches in football right now might not be the worst idea after all - No Nonsense.