Poyet calls for united front
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has moved to heal a rift with some of the club's supporters after a difficult few weeks on Wearside.
The 47-year-old Uruguayan has come under fire in some quarters after appearing to blame fans for poor performances against Fulham, in the FA Cup and QPR in the Barclays Premier League, and then claiming the media had misinterpreted his comments in the wake of Sunday's cup exit at the hands of League One Bradford.
However, on Thursday afternoon, he issued a an open letter to fans urging a united front ahead of Saturday's crucial league clash with West Brom at the Stadium of Light.
In it, he wrote: "During my career as a player, coach or manager, I have always had a fantastic relationship with the fans. From my time in Uruguay going through every team in Europe, always the relationship was strong, one of mutual respect and understanding.
"I showed from inside or from outside the pitch, my commitment, passion and dedication in achieving what every club deserved.
"Of course, I went through good and bad times, successful and not so good ones, winning or losing finals, but I left every single club having a recognition from the fans for my honesty, passion and professional work, so let's make sure that we don't let anyone to break our relationship.
"I promise you that I care and want to win as much as you do and no one thinks more time every day about the team than I do, so I invite all of you to stay positive, to be strong, closer to each other and keep believing in what we started together last year, working harder to make it better this season.
"To finish I would like to clarify once more: the main responsible of the results of our team is me, I always said it and I will always accept my responsibility. I am really looking forward to see the Stadium of Light packed on Saturday, pushing the team to what could be a very important victory."
Poyet has been at the Black Cats helm since October 20013 and masterminded a remarkable survival campaign at the end of last season which saw his team win four of its last five games to pull itself back from the brink of relegation after also reaching the Capital One Cup final and winning 3-0 at Newcastle.
That established him as a hero on Wearside as fans bought into his mission, but rebuilding the club on the pitch has proved a taxing exercise.
He has pointedly and repeatedly referred to his job title to suggest he does not have the influence he would like in recruitment with sporting director Lee Congerton heading up that side of the business - and that has not gone down particularly well in the boardroom - and his clear annoyance with what he sees as a lack of patience on the terraces has not helped his cause.
However, he is desperate to re-establish the connection with supporters which reached its peak at the end of the last campaign.
He said: "I was brought into the club to stay in the Premier League first and most, then get stability and then progress with an identity in our game.
"The first goal was the most difficult task of my life, but we not only stayed up in a miraculous way, we went to Wembley for the first time in years, plus successful games against our biggest rivals and enjoyed some incredible victories away from home.
"What we achieved last year was achieved by all of us together: club (chairman, directors, staff and players) and fans. Nobody - and I mean nobody - from outside helped us a bit, it was only us together.
"Then my second aim was to achieve stability, progression and then slowly start bringing a special way of playing football to make you very proud of our team. This takes time, but even if the aim is clear during the process, we need to keep competing and winning games somehow."