Gus Poyet insists there will be no compromise in his passing philosophy – even if Sunderland are pitched back into the bottom three before their Capital One Cup final date next month.
Like Paolo Di Canio before him, a bullish Poyet insists that his method – which has seen Sunderland climb up the Premier League for number of short passes played in a game – “works”. He points towards the Black Cats’ improved Premier League form and route to the League Cup final as proof that the philosophy he developed at Brighton has a place in the top flight.
And, while there is none of the arrogance that Di Canio exhibited when he made his claims – Poyet admits there are “no guarantees” they will finish the job of their survival bid – he will not abandon his methods. Sunderland were thrown back into the mix at the bottom of the Premier League after a defeat to Hull City on Saturday which was as unexpected as it was depressing.
The club find themselves down in 17th ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Manchester City and may be back in the bottom three before their big day at Wembley.
But Poyet will stick with the system that has helped him so far in his management career.
He said: “That is important for me as a manager. I believe in things. I see things working in other divisions, and I know they work. I know that.
“You can challenge me and argue different, but I know it works. What I didn’t know for sure was whether it would also work in the Premier League, but now I can say that it works there too.
“Whether we can finish the job now, I don’t know. I can’t promise that. But I can promise you that the way we are trying to work, and convince players to play football, that is a method that brings results. I just hope I can continue to prove it between now and the end of the season.”
As Sunderland look to clinch their Premier League survival, their young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is continuing his football education away from the Stadium of Light.
Pickford is with Carlisle United on loan and will play for the Cumbrians against Bradford City tonight, as he attempts to secure a future on Wearside.
He said: “My overall aim is to get into the first team at Sunderland, but I know I need to take things step by step. Hopefully that approach will bring success and I’ll get some games for Sunderland.
“I think I’m close to 40 competitive games now, so I just want to get as many more as possible under my belt and hopefully it will all pay off. I was only just 17 when I went to Darlington, so that was a really good learning curve for me.
“I was playing in the reserves last season before I got the chance to go to Alfreton in February. I really enjoyed my football there and felt I played well. Burton was another step up, which really helped me.”
Sunderland’s Academy has proved a fertile breeding ground recently with the majority of professionals produced by the club going on to secure a future in the game.
Plenty head out on loan but, unlike some other Premier League clubs, Sunderland make sure they keep a close eye on their own young guns who leave the Black Cats.
Pickford explained: “Playing games really helps with confidence and as you get into the loan spell you can feel yourself learning and maturing as a keeper. You learn when to come for things and when not to, so I think maturity is one of the main things I’m gaining from these loan spells.
“The staff at Sunderland have just told me to do what they know I’m capable of doing. I’ll just keep my head down and be as good as I can be.”