Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Gus Poyet never imagined he would take Sunderland
to their first major cup final in 22 years when he took over a club on its
knees less than five months ago.
Poyet has done a remarkable job at the Stadium of Light, but even he has been
surprised by the lift given to a team that was in a “dark and sad” place
when he succeeded Paolo Di Canio in October.
The Uruguayan took charge of a team without a league win and discovered a
dressing room that was shorn of confidence and hope. He has not only
restored these vital components, he has also offered the chance of glory.
His main objective was clear, to save Sunderland from relegation, but as well
haul the team off the bottom of the Premier
League table, Poyet has also guided them into Sunday’s Capital
One Cup against Manchester
“I can tell you that when I got the job, and I got to the Academy of Light at
a quarter to midnight, I was not even thinking about reaching a cup final,”
said Poyet, who built his reputation as a manager by taking Brighton
and Hove Albion from League
One to the Championship
“Not even in a million years. I was only thinking about staying up. That was
the aim, the challenge and a massive challenge that is still there. A big,
“Football puts you in this situation and you need to try and take it, for
sure. You’re not going to let it go past, so we’ll see.
“If you had asked me at my first press conference about the cup I would have
told you to stop it. There is only one thing to talk about and that’s the
Barclays Premier League, but now we are here.
“Now, if you ask any manager in England if they would like to be where we are,
they would say yes because we have a chance to win something.”
To do that, Sunderland must beat one of the best sides in the country and
Poyet must outwit a fellow South American who is also hoping to win his
first trophy in English football, Manuel Pellegrini.
City are expected to win and do so comfortably. Sunderland, though, have not
won a major trophy since the FA Cup in 1973 and there is an excitement and
an anticipation on Wearside that cannot be matched in Manchester.
They have already beaten Chelsea
United to reach the final and there is more than just a desire to
enjoy their big day out and then return to a Premier League survival scrap.
“It’s going to be special,” added Poyet. “This is my first season here and
everything was very, very dark and sad when I arrived. Here and now, we are
90 minutes or 120 away from being the happiest people in England.
“We need to do something special, but we deserve to be there because of what
we have done in the cup. Forget the rest, the league, what we have done in
the cup. We have a team that’s beaten top teams to reach the final.
“I’ve not prepared my team talk because I follow my instincts, but I’m sure
I’m going to use special words. It’s a special moment and I need them to
feel it is a unique opportunity.
“We can go back and say when was the last time we were at Wembley, or you can
ask when is the next time we are going to be there. Who knows? The idea is
to play a final and for teams like us it doesn’t happen every year.
“I have to make sure they feel it is a special opportunity, so that when they
go out on to the pitch, they are going to do everything possible to make
sure we win.”
Poyet has tried to change things gradually, but he also knew time was not a
luxury he would enjoy given their perilous league position.
Sunderland remain in the bottom three, but they are in touching distance of
those above them having been seven points adrift at one stage.
“Someone told me last week, you have been here for four months and it feels
like you have been here for three years, so many things have happened, so
many good things, and bad ones that it is up and down constantly.
“I am delighted where we are because it looked like a really difficult
challenge and we have a bigger chance, a massive chance to survive in the
Barclays Premier League and an incredible opportunity in the cup.”
See the article here: