GUS POYET has warned his players there are no excuses not to be focused on Sunderland’s fight for survival now that the distractions of Wembley finals and cup runs are firmly behind them.
The Black Cats turn their attentions back to league matters with the visit of Crystal Palace providing the perfect opportunity to get their climb out of the bottom three back on track tomorrow afternoon.
It is three weeks since Poyet’s side were last in Premier League action, but now that both domestic cup competitions are out of reach, Sunderland’s focus now stops at avoiding relegation to the Championship.
The arrival of new sporting director Lee Congerton means Poyet can focus on preparing his side for their remaining 12 games instead of summer transfer strategies, and the Black Cats boss insists the same applies to his players.
“It's a relief to have that sorted in certain ways,” said Poyet, who has a fully fit squad as his disposal tomorrow.
“I was a fan when I was young and I went to the stadium and wanted to see my favourite player on the pitch and I would blame the manager when he didn't play him. We all do that. We are all managers and we are all fans. You don't realise at that time what is going on behind the scenes.
“How long it took for someone to sort out the tickets for the final for example. You would not believe. You give players and staff a certain amount of tickets but sooner or later you know they are going to come and ask for more and then somebody else does and you never finish. How can you control that and sort everything else out as well? It's impossible.
“Even on the day before. Now there is nothing. No distractions, There is no Wembley, no tickets, no summer, no pre-season. It's only me they know is preparing things and we have to concentrate on winning football games.
“That is perfection. That's what we all want and I think that's one of the best things about being in England.
“They don't have to talk to the press every two days like in other countries. They have nothing to worry about apart from sleeping well, eating well, training well and be ready to give their maximum.
“It's impossible to ask them to win every game, but just to give their maximum. Everything is in place for them to do that.”
Poyet has the likes of Wes Brown, Craig Gardner and Jozy Altidore available again after they missed last weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Hull City through injury or illness.
The Black Cats boss was criticised for making six changes to the side that lost to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final and he admits the most important thing between now and the end of the season is to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake again.
He said: “I think the easiest part for me is to make sure I pick the right team. That's the most important thing and the responsibility I'm going to put on them and what they need to do.”
Sunderland have dropped crucial points in the league at home this season, but Poyet insists he would rather be stepping out at the Stadium of Light than Selhurst Park.
A crowd of 42,000 is expected on Wearside tomorrow and Poyet believes his players should be relishing the pressures that comes with a game of such magnitude.
“I think it's a great game,” Poyet said. “If I was a football player and I'm in the situation against Palace, would I want to play Palace away or at home? The game is changed because people prefer to play away from home. Where are they coming from? Another planet?
“It looks like there will be 42,000 people there on Saturday. What a game. This is the game I want to play, not the Monday night in January on a rubbish pitch. This is the one.
“I was devastated when we lost the final. I want my team to give their all. We play for all. Then you can go home and have a difficult night because you're sad, but you knew your team had given you everything.
“The Arsenal game and Hull - I didn’t like those games, because we were poor. We need to be a group, not individuals. There are no excuses.”