Gustavo Poyet believes his Sunderland team have “no excuses” not to climb towards safety after the lift of winning the Wear-Tyne derby.
The Black Cats chief achieved a huge result at the Stadium of Light thanks to goals from Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini, the latter an 85th-minute strike that sunk North East rivals Newcastle.
It was a reward for Poyet’s bold selection calls, which included uniting Lee Cattermole and Jack Colback in the centre of midfield. The new Sunderland boss said he had gone “back to basics” and told his team that they were the most important men in the club’s battle to survive.
“I didn’t like to see the table. When you’re bottom it is not nice but we’re off the bottom, and that is something,” he said.
“We beat our biggest rivals – that is even bigger. Now we need to start passing the ball better, we need to keep believing, we need to do different things. This is what we needed so from now on there is no excuses because we needed a lift and there is no better lift than this one.
“So I’m very happy for the players and absolutely delighted for the fans. I saw what it means all this week in town and I can imagine how they will be this week. I don’t know how much it matters that you’re second from bottom, it’s about beating your rivals. I will have a nice week.”
Poyet brought Andrea Dossena back in but it was his recall for Jozy Altidore that did the most to affect the game.
Poyet explained: “I tried to go to
basics – play a left-back at left-back, right-back at right-back and two central midfielders in central midfield.
“It is not difficult, but sometimes when you think too much, you can complicate things,” he said.
“Probably the biggest risk was to play with the two main strikers in the middle, and sometimes when you do that, you have to work a little bit more in midfield.
“We had to close down and defend in a different way, but if we don’t take risks, we are not going to get out.”
Now the Sunderland boss has told his players they are the most important people in the club’s battle to get back on track. “We changed two or three things. The first one was the players. We talked and searched for solutions, especially in relation to their positions on the field,” he said.
“Then, sometimes, the manager needs to do something to show them where to go, that’s the only part that you can help.
“Of course if it happens in the first half, you’re not going to make changes after the first 20 minutes.
“I left a little bit of time to see the reaction, and then we completely changed the shape of the game.
“I brought on a player like Ki, who was totally the opposite to Lee, and put another striker up front. Today, it worked, but it’s up to the players.
“They don’t realise how important they are. It doesn’t matter how many changes you make, the idea is that they go in and believe in what they do.
“Fabio was so close to playing because of the way he has been training, his attitude and how positive he is.
“But sometimes you cannot play because of the shape or the rest of the team.
“If someone deserved to score today, it was probably Fabio Borini.”