SUNDERLAND manager Gus Poyet has told his players there will be no talk of their Capital One Cup final appearance as the Black Cats turn their attentions back to getting out of the Premier League’s bottom three.
Poyet’s men entertain Stoke City at the Stadium of Light this evening and a win could see the Wearsiders move out of the relegation places for the first time since the early weeks of the season.
The Black Cats booked their place at Wembley after a dramatic semi-final penalty shoot-out against Manchester United seven days ago, but their league form has not correlated with their performances in cup competitions.
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They have won only two of their last ten and tonight’s game represents an ideal opportunity for Sunderland to put pressure on the Potters, who sit four points ahead of the Black Cats in 14th place.
There are concerns the prospect of going to Wembley could distract the squad, but Poyet insists that won’t be an issue after revealing time was spent last week organising the logistics for the final.
“We did something specific about that, regarding the cup final,” explained Poyet, who refused to be drawn on questions regarding his predecessor, Paolo Di Canio’s comments.
“We have tried to sort out everything over the weekend and on Monday - tickets, flights, tracksuits, suits, where we're staying and where we're going. That's it, done. See you later.
“There's a Spanish phrase that means stop it, that's enough. Why? Because we don't want it hanging over us.
“It's difficult to compare but when a club is playing on a Saturday and then afterwards goes to Dubai before you play the game everyone is in Dubai already (mentally). I hate that situation. Their minds are not on the game. Why? Because I had it as a footballer and it's difficult. You're preparing everything – the lagers, the golf clubs – you need to play the game first.
“One day we will go to Dubai – although that is up to the chairman – but I would prefer to go four days after a game. It doesn't matter how hard you try, it's there, over you. We have dealt with this situation as quickly as possible for us.
“Now we are feeling that everyone is talking about Stoke, which is most important for us.
“On Friday we spent two or three hours with the squad just talking about the final. When everything was done and the players were gone unfortunately as a staff we had to talk more about it.
“That doesn't mean we weren't paying attention to Kidderminster but you have to because there were plenty of things we needed to discuss – the trip, the hotels, everything. It's part of your job but it also your duty to keep the players away from that as much as you can.
“The players weren't really involved in the process. Of course they asked a few questions but on Monday we finalised the ticket arrangements. The players are now aware we don't talk about that any more.
“I cannot confirm it but I'm expecting the players to have the same attitude to me because it would be a shame to have a chance to play in a great game at Wembley and not do our business before that. That would spoil it. That would be terrible. It would be devastating.”
Tonight’s opponents have been linked with moves for both Lee Cattermole and Steven Fletcher, but Poyet insists he has had no contact from Mark Hughes.
The Stoke boss suggested the club had made inquiries to sign the pair, but Poyet revealed he has been less than impressed by Stoke’s actions over the past week.
He said: “I would expect a call from Mark. He knows me well and Eddie Niedzwiecki, the assistant, was with me at Chelsea.
“I think they would call. If they make an offer official it’s fine, but it would be nice if they could give me a call first. We were team-mates. He (Hughes) was an animal. Mamma mia what a player.”
Cattermole and Fletcher are expected to start tonight and Poyet admitted he does not expect the pair to be affected by the transfer speculation.
“Last week we had a job with Catts but this week I have tried not to talk about it. If there was something in it, fine. The problem is there is absolutely nothing in it. That made me wonder why? Is somebody trying to be clever?
"I hope they are the best two players on the pitch and maybe on Thursday we will get an offer! I trust them (Cattermole and Fletcher) and that is the most important part.”
Poyet is hopeful a deal to sign Ignacio Scocco can be completed before the weekend, and the Black Cats boss admitted Connor Wickham’s future could hinge on the Argentine’s arrival.
He said: “It is impossible to say whether he will move again, he is here, he has trained with us, he is a player we can use and he has been playing well and scoring goals.
“It depends on the whole squad and the next question is whether Scocco goes through or not. It is not only about one particular player.”