Gus Poyet has warned Sunderland’s returning internationals to prepare for a “nightmare” 48 hours – as he gets read to deliver a crash course in his playing philosophy to them.
Poyet has made an immediate impact on the squad players who were not involved for their countries, but the bulk of the Black Cats’ Cosmopolitan squad have been away on international duty ever since he was announced as Paolo Di Canio’s successor.
Captain John O’Shea, Seb Larsson, Jozy Altidore and Emanuele Giaccherini are among the crop of internationals in the Sunderland ranks – six of the squad came through Tuesday’s matches unscathed.
Poyet will be thankful that none of his players picked up injuries but he recognises that the lack of preparation time before Saturday’s long trip to Swansea is far from ideal. Admitting it will be a “nightmare” – mentally, rather than physically – for them to take on all that information in such a short space of time, he has pledged to “convince” them they are ready for the crucial Saturday game.
Poyet said: “Thursday and Friday will be a nightmare for the players coming back. They will all be together for the first time. I need them all in to convince them to be ready.
“It is going to be very demanding over those days. Mentally, not physically as much. We need them all to know what has been happening over the last eight days, we need them prepared for the Swansea game.”
Poyet has spoken to some of the players already, and is believed to have telephoned O’Shea to introduce himself.
After the fracturing experience of working under Di Canio, the new boss needs to make sure the squad is unified and heading in the right direction if they are to bridge a six-point gap to safety.
He is much less of a divisive figure than the Italian was and has already spoken about wanting the players to “relax”. There will be none of the dictatorial rule that became the hallmark of Di Canio’s rule.
Poyet explained: “I have spoken to a few of the guys who have been away on international duty. It’s not nice for the players to be away when a new manager comes in. They will think ‘there’s a new manager who has come in, I haven’t been around, so I am going to be out of the team’. It’s nothing to do with that.
“I want them all to be relaxed about me being here when they come back to training. I want them to just get themselves back here normal, fit. That Thursday and Friday before Swansea will be unbelievable for them. The amount of information they are going to get is incredible.”
Poyet has plenty of selection issues for that Swansea trip, with Steven Fletcher in line for a recall after a swift return from a shoulder injury.
The Scotland forward is undoubtedly Sunderland’s most potent striker but returning him to the starting XI might disrupt Giaccherini, who has enjoyed soaring fortunes since being moved into a more offensive role by temporary boss Kevin Ball.
With midfielder Ki unavailable there are also issues in midfield, while Phil Bardsley’s return to fitness gives the new Sunderland boss an immediate dilemma.
The right-back is available and will be considered for selection although Saturday looks a bit early for his return. It is inevitable he will appear in red and white again though.