Gustavo Poyet determined to keep Connor Wickham grounded

Sunderland coach Gustavo Poyet has been working hard to keep his players' feet on the ground this week - especially Connor Wickham's

Alex Livesey/Getty Images Connor Wickham of Sunderland
Connor Wickham of Sunderland

Gustavo Poyet has been working hard this week to keep Sunderland grounded – and in particular Connor Wickham.

The 21-year-old centre-forward was named Premier League player of the month for April after five goals in four games.

Those goals have lifted the Black Cats out of the relegation zone - but defeat at Manchester United today could leave them bottom of the table tonight if accompanied by the unlikely treble of wins for Norwich City, Fulham and Cardiff City.

It is essential, therefore, Wickham maintains the high standards he has set recently.

Coach Poyet warned: “Between him first, us and his family, we have to make sure he keeps his feet on the ground.

“That is part of the job as a manager, trying to keep a player grounded. You can’t let him get too high.

“Just like the group, you cannot let them get too high after a few results. That is part of the job.

“Everything is going right for Connor. I said a few weeks ago, if we could get a player of the month we could win a few games and I was hoping this month we would get Fabio (Borini) or Johnno (Adam Johnson) again but it’s great it’s Connor.”

Sunderland have taken seven points from the last three games, but Poyet insists it is not down to any change of approach.

He added: “We have not changed anything really.

“When we were poor, we were just trying to drill into the players they had to go onto the pitch believing they could win. We were trying to find a solution. Now, it is still the same.

“We have still been intense in training. We have done plenty of things to make sure you are in control. We have to try to be calm and the confidence will be there.

“The idea is to go out and perform and if we do that today the result will come.

“Then we look to Wednesday and Sunday (when the Black Cats entertain West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City) and try to get the two wins we need.

“We have to try to win at Man United because if we can get the win we need then the extra game in midweek (Sunderland’s game in hand on the bottom three) will be the key.

“Training is shorter at this stage of the season, sessions are shorter in time. We normally train for an hour and a half but it drops to an hour and ten or even less.

“However, the intention is to maintain that intensity you need. When you go into games we have to be ready.

“We have to train the way we want to play, both this week and in the long term. The important thing is to transfer what you do in training into the game.

“This week has been good. I suppose all that is because it comes with the confidence from the last two games.

“We also have to keep doing the basics right and if you have the basics right and play with confidence you have to take advantage.”

Poyet will also find himself in the unusual position of hoping Newcastle do well as they look to end a six-match losing streak at home to Cardiff.

He said: “Will I support Newcastle tomorrow? Mmmmm, supporting is too much but I want them to do well.

“It will be intense there. There will be tension. The beginning of the game will mark what happens.

“We’re not going to take any radios to the bench or anything like that for this game.

“At the moment, all we’re concentrating on is to win two games, that’s the feeling in the training ground. Let’s just win two games, that’s the aim, and if we don’t and we are lucky then fair enough.”

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