OVER the course of the last six weeks, Sunderland have earned themselves a lifeline in their fight for Premier League survival and sealed an appearance at Wembley.
Despite losing to Hull City on Saturday, Gustavo Poyet has realised that the methods he worked to on the south coast at Brighton can have a similar impact at a higher level.
THAT’S HOW IT’S DONE: Gus Poyet has every confidence his managerial and coaching methods will succeed
That has given the Uruguayan plenty of hope for the future at the Stadium of Light, regardless of what happens in the next few months of the campaign.
The turnaround in fortunes has highlighted to Poyet that his style of management and tactics can gain its rewards in the Premier League, having spent four years developing a Brighton side before his departure at the end of last season.
After taking over in November 2009, he led the Seagulls to safety in League One. The following year he guided them to promotion to the Championship in style, earning the division’s manager of the year award for that campaign.
While the standard in the Premier League is much higher, it is not too dissimilar to the situation he has faced on Wearside since succeeding Paolo Di Canio.
What he knows now, though, is that Sunderland have to try to finish the job off they have started. Losing to Hull has slipped the Black Cats back in to relegation trouble.
But the three league wins in four before that – along side the progress in both the Capital One Cup and FA Cup – has left Poyet more confident than ever that the future will be bright on Wearside.
“It is important for me as a manager to know what I do is working,” said Poyet. “I believe in things. I see things working in other divisions, and I know they work. I know that.
“You can challenge me and argue different, but I know it works. What I didn't know for sure was whether it would also work in the Premier League, but now I can say that it works there too.
“Whether we can finish the job now, I don't know. I can't promise that. But I can promise you that the way we are trying to work, and convince players to play football, that is a method that brings results. I just hope I can continue to prove it between now and the end of the season.”
If Sunderland are going to stay out of the bottom three in the weeks ahead then they are going to have to stun a few of the Premier League’s biggest clubs in the coming weeks, starting tomorrow.
After the midweek trip to Manchester City, Sunderland’s next two league games are visits to two other Champions League – arguably even title – hopefuls in the form of Arsenal and Liverpool.
Throw in a couple of cup ties with Southampton in the FA Cup on Saturday and a trip to Wembley to face City again on March 2 and it promises to be an exciting three weeks.
Poyet just wants to see his side forget about Saturday’s defeat to Hull and deal with the absence of defender Wes Brown, who misses the next two games courtesy of the red card he received against the Tigers.
The Sunderland boss said: "The way we get the momentum back is by performing on Wednesday. Going there, and watching my team play for 90 minutes, make no mistakes, not allow the opposition a great day.
“It is going to be difficult but we have to make it difficult for them and be ourselves, defend when we need to defend and pass the ball better and not make mistakes and not give any presents away.
“Then it is up to us. We have to be careful with our play and make sure we do our job properly. There will be opportunities for other players with the game on Saturday."
Brown’s unavailability is likely to mean a first Premier League start for Santiago Vergini tomorrow night at the heart of the defence alongside John O’Shea in the rehearsal for the Capital One Cup final.
* Tickets for travelling supporters will be available at the Etihad Stadium before the game.
Tickets are priced at £42 for adults, £36 for over 65s and £26 for under 16s and will be available from the Stadium of Light ticket office or by calling the hotline 0871 911 1973 until 5pm tonight.
Tickets will then be available, at same prices, up until kick-off from Manchester City’s ticket office which is situated to the north of the Etihad Stadium.