Gus Poyet admits he has aged three years in his three months at Sunderland – but he wouldn’t swap the Black Cats’ position for anything.
Poyet’s time at the Stadium of Light has been a remarkable rollercoaster of emotions, taking in subterranean lows like the hammering at Swansea and home defeats to Aston Villa and the most soaring of highs – including the defeat of Manchester United over two highly-charged matches last month.
Inevitably, it has proved a fast-track education in the ways of Premier League management that Poyet has had to learn and adapt from. “Sum up my time at Sunderland? Unexpected. So many things happen that I will never plan things (anymore),” he said.
“If I knew we were going to play my third game with nine (men) I would have trained with that because you can have a team for ten years and never go down to nine men and we had it after three games. Using the cup the way we use it, finding myself in a final, so many things have happened.
“Someone told me last week, you have been here for four months and it feels like you have been here for three years, so many things have happened, so many good things, and bad ones that it is up and down constantly.
“It looks like we have more games than we have really played, I think it is 20 in the league and 27 in total, it looks like we have played the whole league already because there have been so many so fast and then what is coming.
“I am delighted where we are because it looked like a really difficult challenge where we were and we have a bigger chance, a massive chance to survive in the Barclays Premier League and an incredible opportunity in the cup.”
Poyet and his backroom staff will wear specially designed Hugo Boss suits for the big day. He is acutely aware of how much it means to the local population to have got so far in the Capital One Cup.
He said: “It’s going to be incredible, the moment, for them. Unforgettable. And if – I keep saying if – we win, forget it, it’s not going to get better than that.
“It’s the club, the city, press, the people who follow the team, the fans. I just hope we can cope with the moment, the game itself and that we can perform.”
When events are so incredible and emotional it helps to have a midfield anchor like Jack Colback. Poyet heaped praise on the Sunderland midfielder, claiming he is crucial to the club’s balance – both on and off the field.
Colback has developed from a lightly-regarded left-back to one of the club’s creative fulcrums in the time it has taken him to adapt to new boss Poyet’s regime. He is one of the nine that Poyet has assured a place at Wembley on Sunday. “It’s been a strange season for him, changing managers,” Poyet said.
“He was playing at left-back and he got the opportunity to play in the middle of the park where he is at his best. He took it. He was in an our a bit, he didn’t like it, he is a good character , but when he is on the pitch he gives you the lot.
“I always say when you are a fan and you feel the club, it gives you a little bit more It doesn’t matter if people say, I would do the same. No you wouldn’t. It’s more personal for fans of the club.
“That’s something Jack always brings to the club and that is why he is one of the 13 or 14 who play week in, week out. It will be a very special day for Jack Colback.”