Poyet striving for survival
Published 14/03/2014 | 17:42
Gus Poyet will only enjoy his summer if Sunderland remain a Barclays Premier League club.
The 46-year-old Uruguayan has spent most of his time on Wearside to date engaged in a desperate fight for top-flight survival, and after a brief cup sabbatical, he will return to that battle on Saturday when Crystal Palace visit the Stadium of Light in what could prove to be a crucial encounter for both teams.
Sunderland had only one point when Poyet arrived in October last year, and while they have added a further 23 in 19 league games since, they remain in deep trouble.
As he prepares for a 12-game mini-season which will determine the Black Cats' destiny, Poyet admits the pressure is intense, but he is hoping it will all be worthwhile.
He said: "After the games is the worst. Before the games, I just need to be convinced most of the time - I'm not saying all the time - that we have done everything possible to prepare the team.
"After the games, especially after the bad ones, I am not the best person to be around that night.
"It's because we care, because we suffer, because we hate losing and because we are making sure everything we believe in - and which has been working to some point - is going to finish well and we are going to have a very good summer.
"We will keep going."
Sunderland currently sit in 19th place in the table, but are only a point adrift of safety and have at least two games in hand on all their closest rivals.
However, Poyet is refusing to immerse himself in the business of trying to work out the various permutations, and will instead concentrate simply on the task of getting as close as he possibly can to 40 points, the generally accepted safety mark.
He said: "Last week, I was with a few people talking about it and the week before, and you talk to the managers and maybe they check more than me who is playing against who, who can win and if they win this...
"I don't do that. I cannot kill myself mentally to think if it's 40, 39, 38, 37 (points needed) ... I don't know.
"Me, I always believe that the closer you get to 40, the more chance you have of staying up. Then if there are three teams who don't reach 30, great, we need 31."
Poyet has a virtually full-strength squad from which to select.
Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis will be without Morocco striker Marouane Chamakh.
English forward Glenn Murray is set to replace Chamakh up front and lead Palace's attack at Sunderland. Pulis will have the rest of his squad available for the encounter at the Stadium of Light.
Pulis is full of praise for his players but insists they must reach a higher level to retain their Barclays Premier League status.
The Eagles have won just twice away from home heading into Saturday's game at the Stadium of Light.
Palace are 16th, three points clear of second-bottom Sunderland.
"From when I came in to where we are now, we have done fantastically well," Pulis said.
"I have a great group. What we have to do is to step up another level to get us over the line."
Palace suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton last weekend and Pulis remains frustrated by some of the refereeing decisions that went against his club.
"Against Southampton, in the first 20 minutes we had two great opportunities where the linesmen flagged," he said.
"I've been on to the Referees' Association and the linesmen should get those decisions right because the two were onside.
"(Glenn) Murray was through on goal and had just the goalkeeper to beat.
"In the second half when (Southampton defender Jose) Fonte brings down (Palace's Yannick) Bolasie, that is a sending off.
"In Premier League games, you need things to go for you and they never did. If Murray had been allowed to go on and score, it would have been a different game."
Pulis does not expect anything to come easy this weekend.
"It will be a tough game, it always is," he said.
"They are a big club, the fourth or fifth best supported in the Premier League. It's absolutely fantastic for us to go to the Stadium of Light and play against a great football club."