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Expect another revolution on Wearside as pass-master Poyet wings into town
GUSTAVO Augusto Poyet Domínguez, or Gus Poyet as he is commonly known, shares many similarities with Paolo Di Canio - but on the pitch, it will be completely different.
Critics of the decision to replace the Italian with an equally fiery manager in Poyet would point to his ability to make everything about Gus Poyet, the fact he is untested in the Premier League and the controversy over his departure from previous club Brighton and Hove Albion.
The incident in the away dressing room - when Poyet sent an angry email in the wake of his side’s play-off defeat to Crystal Palace last season regarding an unsavoury toilet occurance - will linger, much like its odour at the Amex, but in truth it is nothing compared to the baggage that Di Canio hauled into the Academy of Light in April.
Refreshingly, there will be no questions of fascism, no threats of banners being taken from the Stadium of Light, no resignations, no boycotts.
But Poyet will be a box-office appointment. He will, like Di Canio, make controversial comments, he will conduct entertaining press conferences and if Sunderland wanted to avoid a circus, perhaps Poyet was the wrong man to appoint.
What he will bring, however, is a complete overhaul of Sunderland’s tactics and strategy on the pitch. While Di Canio similarly insisted on a passing style, the Italian’s was based around getting it forward as quickly as possible, taking risks and steamrollering the opposition.
Poyet’s game, perfected at Brighton, is equally high tempo, a high pressing game, but ball retention is paramount. Expect Keiren Westwood to bowl the ball out to his defenders, for a slow patient build-up, simple six-yard passes, while his midfielders will poke and prod until gaps appear and his wingers will exploit the spaces in behind.
It’s lovely to watch. But Sunderland’s supporters will need a bit of time to adjust to it. Poyet’s style is not to get it forward, but to play it around, to enjoy long spells of possession. Patience is the key.
It’s a style that Poyet honed firstly at the Withdean Stadium when he was appointed Albion boss in 2009, before getting the Seagulls promoted to the Championship in 2011, just in time for the club’s move to their new Amex Stadium.
The sharp passing game was a perfect fit for the club’s classy new home, but after two attempts to get out of the division - the club are heavily bankrolled by professional poker player Tony Bloom - the situation went sour for Brighton and Poyet.
After that night in May, when Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace victored over Poyet’s Seagulls, it all fell apart. Poyet, unhappy with the club’s marketing department’s idea to issue rattles to the Seagulls fans, sent an email out raging against the decision while accusing club employees of leaving an unwanted present in the away dressing room.
He was suspended pending an investigation, and Poyet was dismissed shortly before going on air during the BBC’s coverage of the Confederations Cup in which he was a pundit.
One thing that will endear Poyet to his new club is his remarkable record over Sunderland’s greatest rivals.
While even Sunderland’s biggest win on Tyneside since 1979 did not buy Di Canio any time, Poyet’s record as a player and also a manager against Newcastle is not to be sniffed at.
Poyet found the net six times from 13 appearances against Newcastle between 1998 and 2003, including a brace in the FA Cup semi-final in 2000 while at Chelsea.
As manager, he won twice against Newcastle, putting Alan Pardew’s side out of the FA Cup at the fourth and third round stage in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
After the second game, Poyet said: "Newcastle were always a team that I liked to play against as a player. You might read in papers about players always scoring against a certain team and I have been lucky enough to score a lot of goals against Newcastle, which included two goals in the FA Cup semi-final in 2000.
And after his side saw off the Magpies a year earlier, he said: “I wish I was playing Newcastle every week. It's always Newcastle and me somehow.”
That love affair will be rekindled on October 27, with Poyet welcoming Newcastle to the Stadium of Light in his first home game as manager.
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