Gus Poyet has revealed he is laying down foundations for the long-term at Sunderland, as he insisted he wants to stay on Wearside whatever the result of their fraught survival battle.
The Black Cats boss has taken advantage of the appointment of Lee Congerton as sporting director to start planning pre-season – and he has shown how optimistic he is by not taking into account the Championship fixtures.
That is the first genuine indication that Poyet – who has also been watching the under-18 and under-21 teams recently – wants to build a club beyond this year’s survival mission. He has spoken of instilling a playing philosophy on the development teams as well as taking care of the first team.
“I have to plan for next season somehow. We have started with pre-season and slowly with the friendlies, with the dates and the programme of the season,” he said.
“At the moment we have not touched the Championship one. We are trying to be very positive and believe we are going to make it, but it is difficult and all of the teams are in the same position. Slowly we have started, we cannot wait. Otherwise you would not be ready.”
Poyet has a contract for a further two years but despite the club being impressed with his role so far, there have been no talks aimed at extending his deal.
Indeed the Sunderland boss admits that he cannot be sure that relegation won’t result in his dismissal, but he is planning for the long-term anyway.
“I have the contract. If we lost the next 11 games then maybe not! It is difficult to plan,” he said.
“Me, I just try to plan for what my contract says and the way I work is that, even if I don’t know if I will be here in two or three years, I plan ahead just in case. I respect other people, but I don’t like just to say I am only interested in this year and I don’t care about next. Next year if I am here, I care.
“We need to make sure we are doing something for next year and the year after.”
Sunderland head to Norwich tomorrow hoping to smuggle a vital three points from a Norwich side who have been resolute at home. Poyet knows the consequences of losing and going down, a fate which he would accept responsibility for – despite the dire situation that he inherited in the autumn.
“Are we still playing catch-up from those first eight games? No doubt. I am going to be judged from the time I came here until now.
“We have won more points than the games we have played since I have been here. If we do the same now until the end of the season we will be all right. When I took over? We were dead. Dead. Will I have failed if we go down? I will take it. I will be responsible.
“I am not going to defend what went before, in the last two years, because that would be going against myself for no reason, but I am going to be very honest and I think we are there, we have done a lot and I think we will finish the job. I will take responsibility for what I have done.
“If we make 40 points and we go down, which means I will have got 39 points in 31 games, I am responsible. But there is a limit (to my responsibility). I will accept my responsibility, no doubt.”
Meanwhile, Poyet has admitted that there is a possibility that Steven Fletcher may not play again this season. The club are still “assessing” the striker’s injured ankle.
He said: “Next week, we’re going to have a final decision on him. He’s not fit for this weekend. It was quite swollen, so it was difficult to do all the tests.”