Gustavo Poyet was missing from his final pre-match press conference of the season – proof, according to Charlie Oatway, that his future lies with Sunderland.
Despite reported reservations within Upton Park about his lack of Premier League experience, Poyet was backed down to 6/5 favourite to start next season as West Ham United manager.
However, first-team coach Oatway laughed off the suggestion tomorrow’s game at home to Swansea City would be the Uruguayan’s last as Black Cats boss. He pointed to the fact Poyet was busy negotiating with some of his out-of-contract players as proof.
“He’s as committed as when we first signed here,” insists Oatway, part of Poyet’s coaching team since the Uruguayan started in management with Brighton and Hove Albion.
“We signed for this year and next year, that was the length of contract we received and we are committed to it – hence him not being here. The reason he’s not here is because he’s trying to sort the foundations out for our club.”
Some have taken Poyet’s comments there are “problems” at Sunderland as an indication he was on the brink of resigning, but Oatway says they have been misinterpreted.
He added: “Someone says Gus says we have problems. Of course we have because of the situation we’re in. What he meant was he wants to get them sorted out – on the playing side and every which way possible. He’s focused on us and what we’re going to do.
“He’d better be, because I’ve just moved into a new house! Believe it or not the guy I rented off had his house repossessed and didn’t tell us! That was lovely of him.”
Jack Colback (pictured right) and Phil Bardsley are two of the out-of-contract players Sunderland are keen to retain, despite being unable to reach agreement in the last year of their deals.
Oatway said: “They’d be two of the players Gus will be sitting down with, although being in here I don’t know how those conversations have started. We don’t want them to leave.
“Gus just tried to convince everyone to put everything else on the backburner and get safe.
“He said: ‘I know you’re worried about your futures, but your futures will be better off in the Premier League than if we’re in the Championship.’
“Everyone sat back and let that happen, so now negotiations will happen.”
Lee Cattermole is a doubt for tomorrow with the ankle problem which forced him off during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, which confirmed their place in next season’s top-flight. Sebastian Larsson is also a doubt.
Oatway promised no risks would be taken. He added: “They’ve put themselves through hell and back to get stay in the Premier League, so what we’re very conscious of is to make sure they don’t have a summer in the treatment room.”
That said, Sunderland can finish as high as 12th this season, or as low as 17th. Including TV payments, 12th place will earn £71,978,800, while 17th receives £66,345,050.
Oatway said: “We’re looking to finish off with as many points and as high up that league as we can.”
Cardiff City’s Juan Cala has been banned for three matches for his behaviour at the Stadium of Light last month. The defender was sent off for a professional foul in Sunderland’s 4-0 win, but his misconduct charge was for unspecified behaviour “in or around the tunnel area” after the match. He was fined £12,500.