Gustavo Poyet has admitted he will have to rein in his emotions during a fraught conclusion to the Premier League season.
Cool heads will be needed with in excess of £50m on the line during Sunderland’s last three matches of the campaign. If they can match the points tallies of Cardiff City, Fulham and Norwich City in the season’s final fortnight (the trio all have a game less), they will secure their place in the top flight.
Poyet was reserved in his reaction to Sunderland’s first two goals in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Cardiff, but did not hold back at the final whistle.
His emotional post-match responses have been a feature of Poyet’s time as Black Cats manager, and are something he is conscious of. But he admits he finds it hard to keep them under control.
“Over three months, you can try to hide your emotion, but like any other person, there is a limit,” he said. “Maybe I’m not that good an actor.
“There were moments in the season that were difficult. You could see it in my face and my expressions. Why? Because I’m realistic, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in something special or unique, that’s always possible in football.”
Poyet’s post-match comments at White Hart Lane earlier this month that his team needed a “miracle” to survive relegation were anything but calculated, but have perhaps had a positive effect. Perhaps feeling they have little to lose, Sunderland have since drawn at Manchester City, won at Chelsea and at home to Cardiff. Those results have taken them out of the relegation zone.
The demoralising 5-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur was not the game Poyet picked out as the low point of his six-month tenure.
“I said I was getting fed up after a game at home we couldn’t win against Norwich, and the Norwich game away was another low point. So we can blame Norwich!” he joked
“It’s natural because you are always convinced that what you are doing is the right thing. Then when weeks go past, and it doesn’t happen, it’s natural to be disappointed. I care a lot – I want to say too much, but I will just say a lot – for the club I work for. I need to control my emotions, but I am a human being. I can control my emotions for a while, but I’m still learning to control it for a long time. That doesn’t mean I’m going to control it forever, it’s not that easy.”
Adam Johnson has attributed Sunderland’s improvement to the extra dimension Connor Wickham has added to their game.
When the Wearsiders were in their last purple patch at the turn of the year, winger Johnson was carrying the goalscoring burden almost alone. But five goals in three games from Wickham mean that for the first time this season Sunderland have a genuine goal threat playing between Johnson and Fabio Borini.
“It’s important to not just have one threat,” said Johnson, whose slim chances of making England’s World Cup squad improved yesterday when Andros Townsend was ruled out of the tournament with ankle ligament damage.
“Relying on one or two people is difficult in a team of 11. Teams are just going to pinpoint one person, and think if he doesn’t play, the team won’t.”
Meanwhile, Ki Sung-Yueng may have played his last game for the club.
The on-loan midfielder is not expected to play again this season after being diagnosed against Everton earlier this month.
“Ki has been to see a specialist in London who has confirmed it is tendonitis of the knee and needs to be treated carefully,” Poyet explained.
“He has had a problem with it for a while. He had been playing through it but it slowly got worse and now I really don’t know if it will be possible for him to play again for us.”
Ki was out of favour under previous Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, and Sunderland had hoped to take advantage by making the loan permanent in January. But uncertainty over which division the Black Cats would be in next season, and Laudrup’s future, put a stop to that.
In February the Dane was replaced by Garry Monk, a fan of Ki’s. Monk is therefore expected to recall him next season.