Gustavo Poyet is set to be named Sunderland’s next new manager as the Black Cats replace one talented but inexperienced manager with another.
At the time of going to press, no official confirmation had been made, but the Uruguayan looks sure to be unveiled as Paolo Di Canio’s successor on a three-year contract either today or tomorrow.
Like Di Canio, Poyet will arrive with an impressive cv and extensive knowledge of the Premier League as a player, but none as a manager.
Poyet was high in chairman Ellis Short’s thoughts when Martin O’Neill was sacked as manager in March. But he was with promotion-chasing Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion who were thought to be demanding around £2.5m compensation, and stayed on the south coast. Short opted instead for Di Canio, but has now gone back in for the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder.
Poyet served his coaching apprenticeship on the staff of Spurs and Leeds United, and is regarded as one of English management’s brightest talents.
His Brighton side played attractive Spanish-style football on a limited budget. Short also wanted a coach to work within the structure built around Di Canio, and headed by director of football Roberto Di Fanti.
The Italian recommended Di Canio to a board very light on football experience, and suggested Poyet as his replacement. Whereas Short was very quick to appoint Di Canio, he has learnt from his mistake.
The Texan opened negotiations with Poyet quickly after Di Canio’s dismissal, but has taken more than two weeks to appoint him. He has spent time doing due diligence on Poyet, whose acrimonious departure from Brighton has not counted against him.
The official news of Poyet’s sacking for gross misconduct in June was broken to him in true pantomime style halfway through a match he was providing television punditry on.
The 45-year-old initially threatened legal action, saying: “I totally disagree with every allegation and accusation the club has put on me.” But he is yet to follow through on that.
The manner of his departure threatened to overshadow an extremely successful period at Brighton.
Poyet won 86 and drew 59 of his 194 games. It is a surprising number for such a young manager, and at the time of his sacking, he was the sixth-longest serving manager in the country.
As with his playing days, some of Poyet’s most memorable successes came against Newcastle United. Brighton knocked the Magpies out of the FA Cup in each of the last two seasons.
His first home game in charge will be against Newcastle, on October 27. Di Canio won his only derby, 3-0 at St James’ Park, for the first of only two top-flight victories he masterminded.
That bought him time and credit with Sunderland supporters initially sceptical about his appointment.
The reaction to Poyet has been mixed. He has many of the same qualities and flaws as the Italian, albeit to a less extreme degree.
Di Canio was in charge of Swindon Town for around half the number of matches Poyet has overseen, winning a League Two title as opposed to Poyet’s in League One.
He too is no stranger to controversy, though he cannot compete with Di Canio in terms of abrasiveness. The breakdown of Di Canio’s relationship with his players was as big a factor in his sacking as poor results.
Poyet will inherit a team which has taken just one point from its first seven matches this season. The Black Cats are already six points from safety.
Kevin Ball was able to produce some spirited performances in his two league games in caretaker charge, but no points. With his former Brighton assistant Mauricio Taricco expected to join Poyet, Ball (pictured left) will return to his old job in charge of Sunderland’s Under-21s. He had hoped for the job himself.
Poyet’s first game will be at Swansea City a week on Saturday, and after Newcastle he will oversee a League Cup tie at home to Southampton. Surprisingly, the police have allowed that to take place on October 30, when the Magpies are also at home in the competition.