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John Giles: Gus puts his finger on Sunderland's problem


Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, pictured, admits it will be difficult to attract top-quality players in the January transfer window

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, pictured, admits it will be difficult to attract top-quality players in the January transfer window

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, pictured, admits it will be difficult to attract top-quality players in the January transfer window

WHEN Gus Poyet cut loose last week and had a major go at Sunderland's transfer policy, I must say I was cheering him along all the way.

This is a man who performed one of the greatest escape acts in the history of the Premier League with Sunderland last season and should be backed to the hilt by Ellis Short.

Clearly, however, he is not being properly supported. Poyet pointed out the fact that he wasn't the manager at Sunderland but the coach and he wasn't making a case for this being a good thing.

In fact, at one point he suggested to journalists that if they could contact anyone from 'recruitment' at the club, he would be very pleased and that was a clear demonstration of the breakdown in communication which happens in these situations.

Paolo di Canio was more than a little crazy and made an awful mess of Sunderland when he was there but I did notice at the end when he, like Poyet, explained that he had no say in signing players.

It didn't matter so much to di Canio. He looks like a man who could start a row in an empty room and his time at the Stadium of Light was doomed to failure from the start.

But the conditions he left behind were obviously awful and Poyet, after saving Ellis Short another summer of major upheaval and criticism from fans, deserves much better than the current restricted circumstances he is labouring under.

It is worth refreshing memories at this point. Sunderland were dead and buried with a month to go in last season's relegation battle and to avoid the drop, they drew with the eventual title winners in Manchester, beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and then United at Old Trafford.

It will be a long time before we see something like that again and yet, just a short spell further down the road, Poyet is being forced to go public about failings within his own club. It has be bad when he feels the need to do that.

I suspect that Poyet has already made a call in his head and that he will be managing somewhere else next season. The moment a manager crosses the line and has words to say about directors or the owner, his time is running out.

That would be a disaster for Sunderland fans and more evidence that common sense is far from common.

I've admired Poyet for some time now and I believe he has all the attributes needed to become a really top manager. Best of all, he is prepared to stand up for himself in the face of stupidity and while that might well cause him difficulty at Sunderland, I think it will pay off for him in the long run.

I understand that there are many directors and chairmen out there who might view Poyet's decision to criticise his own club's structure with suspicion.


Like Tony Pulis, Poyet is a man who listens to his own advice and like Pulis, he is not a person who is prepared to sit on his hands and simply take what his given to him.

At Stoke, Pulis did so well that the fans , directors and owners were overcome by delusions of adequacy. He was unfashionable and they were sure that they could do better with someone else.

I like Mark Hughes but it has to be said that he hasn't moved Stoke onto the new level everyone at the club was hoping for when they handed Pulis his cards.

Pulis took a stand at Crystal Palace and he did it after he had saved the club from relegation. That made him my man of the season and Poyet is filling the role very nicely this time out.

I noticed Pulis is sporting a very nice tan at the moment and taking his time about returning to management.

Opportunities will arise, I have no doubt about that. and in his case, almost certainly have already.

But he will be naturally wary because his principles have not changed. Whichever club eventually gets him will be lucky.

The fact that for the first time I can remember, no Premier League manager has been sacked before Christmas will not stop them being axed in January, February or March.

The simple fact that Poyet criticised his club's recruitment policy and by extension, the owner, sealed his fate. Either he will have a Pulis moment and leave of his own volition or he will be let go.

One man who would be very unhappy to see that happen is John O'Shea who has found a cause to believe in at Sunderland and is playing some of the best and most consistent football of his life under Poyet.


I always believed that John was in a comfort zone at Old Trafford and that his career there was as much about filling gaps as establishing himself as a player of substance in his own right.

At Sunderland, rather than being one of many talented footballers trying to get in the team, he is the team. Judging by the look of sheer delight on his face when he was celebrating Adam Johnston's winner in the derby tussle with Newcastle United, he is enjoying the experience as much as he did winning titles and the Champions League at Old Trafford.

O'Shea, for me, is evidence that Poyet is something above the ordinary.

He's has reignited the passion of a man decorated with everything the game has to offer who is now playing as well or better than ever and with nothing much more to offer in the season than survival.

Poyet inspires trust and confidence and imagine how well he could do if he was given the right kind of backing.

I believe he has the capacity to be a great manager in years to come but I can safely predict that it will not happen at the Stadium of Light.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Ellis Short put in a call to Tony Pulis at some point in the next nine months. I suspect it would go unanswered.