Sunderland v Chelsea preview: Poyet says SAFC must believe in themselves

The past proves Sunderland AFC can triumph, says manager Gus Poyet, as he recalls Sunderland's 4-1 win over Chelsea fourteen years ago

Michael Regan/Getty Images Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet

Fourteen years ago today, Gus Poyet scored at the Stadium of Light, for Chelsea.

Unfortunately for him then but perhaps fortunately now, Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips were at the height of their combined powers and, with a brace apiece, helped Sunderland to a 4-1 win.

“Embarrassing,” Poyet remembers.

Yet it also, now, raises hope.

So too victory last month against Manchester City.

For welcoming his old club to Wearside this evening, the Black Cats manager believes that if such results were possible before, they are possible again.

“It was one of the worst experiences of my time at Chelsea, embarrassing,” he said of that December day, 1999.

“For these kind of things to happen there has to be two reasons because there are two teams playing and they both have to play a part.

“Maybe we were not good enough, but at the same time Sunderland were superb. Mr Quinn and Mr Phillips were on fire. They destroyed us. We were poor but they were very good and it was very embarrassing.

“It showed you that when this place is full and creating a really good atmosphere, they can push the players up. On a good day anything can happen. We have to remember that and see if we can do something special too.”

Though still without Keiren Westwood and Carlos Cuellar, Poyet is hopeful of having John O’Shea available following a slight groin strain, after the defender trained without complaint yesterday.

“We want to go and try to win the game,” Poyet said.

“They’re one of the best teams in the country so we’re going to have to be good, to compete. I think that we all believe that it’s possible, especially after beating Manchester City at home.

“That’s an important thing, for the players more than the coaching staff.

“You can tell them they can do it, but they have done it themselves. That shows you that there is a way, and hopefully we can repeat it.” Poyet remains cautiously upbeat about the improvement he has overseen since replacing Paolo Di Canio in October.

Sunderland are still deep in relegation trouble, but their manager was pleased by the balance displayed during Saturday’s goalless draw at Aston Villa, and is keen to see more of the same against the Blues.

“To play a football game you have to defend and you have to attack,” he said. “At Aston Villa we were always doing one or the other, not both together but in terms of balance I think it was our best game. We played when we had to play, we created a few chances. But at the same time we defended very well.

“We need to do both again, because, of course, if you only defend against Chelsea, it’s going to be very difficult. It’s about balance.

“We just have to try our best, knowing it’s going to be very difficult but at the same time, it’s possible.”

Possible too, with a vociferous home crowd behind the team. “The fans always play a massive part,” said Poyet. “When you play with that support behind you, that atmosphere, it’s amazing.

“I know coming here as a Chelsea player the Stadium of Light was always a tough place to come, so we want to try and make that the atmosphere here.

“It is a good time for us and I hope we can maintain the level of consistency and performance.

“I want to do well. I think we’re going into December in better form, we’ve got a little bit more confidence.

“We’ve got a solid back four and we’re understanding better what we want. I don’t have a points target in mind for the next month, mentally it’s better for me to just think about the next game.

“But, of course, we need to win some games.”

Starting against Chelsea would be particularly special for Poyet.

In four years at Stamford Bridge, the Uruguayan made more than 100 appearances for the club, scoring 49 goals.

He remains a firm favourite in west London and admits that were he still living there and not working in the game, he’d be watching his old side from the stands.

“No doubt I would be there,” he said. I am a fan. I will always love the club. It is going to be nice to see old friends, have a chat with them, talk about them and us and I hope I have the same feeling after the game.

“Chelsea means a lot to me. I won plenty of trophies there. When you win trophies you get close to the club.

“My time at Chelsea was before (Roman) Abramovic.

“It was more of a family back them. It was still an old-fashioned family club.

“We knew everybody. People from many, many years.

“Then you go to another level and things change. Then it is different security and training grounds. When you see the training ground you say, ‘Oh my god’.

“When you saw the old one you thought, ‘Oh my god’ – but for a different reason!

“It is a different Chelsea now but it is a much better Chelsea now.

“We had too many foreigners. But that made us very strong because we needed each other a lot.

“We needed a family and we became a strong group led by Denis Wise.

“We were a very good team to watch but we just couldn’t win the Premier League.

“Something was missing. Then Abramovic arrived, but (Claudio) Ranieri couldn’t do it. Then (Jose) Mourinho came and it was the perfect combination.

“You need a combination of him, and money.

“The money was important but it wasn’t enough. Ranieri couldn’t make it work.

“Then Mourinho won everything. That team that won the first Premier League for them was incredible, so difficult to play against.

“It was scary. After that they become a worldwide team and people everywhere in the world support Chelsea.

“That happens because you are champions.

“We are all different. He (Mourinho) knows what he wants and he has his way of getting it.

“It works because it wins and that is always the key. Credit to him for that.”

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