Under-fire Gustavo Poyet has backing of Sunderland chairman Ellis Short

Gustavo Poyet has admitted Sunderland need a "miracle" to avoid relegation - but he at least retains the support of chairman Ellis Short

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images Gus Poyet, manager of Sunderland
Gus Poyet, head coach of Sunderland

Twelve months ago, with his Sunderland team just outside the Premier League relegation zone with only 31 points to their name and seven matches to play, Ellis Short felt he had no choice but to sack Martin O’Neill.

At the same stage of this season they are six points worse off, bottom of the table, seven points from survival and with their coach adamant they need a “miracle” to survive.

Yet Gustavo Poyet insists he still has the full backing of the club’s Texan owner.

“The message from the owner is support. Total support,” he said, ahead of today’s game at home to Champions League-chasing Everton. “I spoke to him this week and he totally supports (me). He made a decision and he is standing by it until the end.

“I don’t need to tell you what we said to each other, but it was natural and straight-forward. We spoke about the situation and why we decided to stick together until the end.”

If the man who matters most is standing steadfast, others are not so sure.

Monday’s televised 5-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur was alarming for its manner as much as its scale.

The goals conceded after taking the lead through Lee Cattermole were those of a bedraggled and demoralised side and the fact Poyet has tried a new formation in the last three matches – all lost – has added to the criticism.

In his defence, he inherited a hopeless situation from Paolo Di Canio and, while he looks unlikely now to rescue the Black Cats from it, he has at least provided some highlights.

“It’s difficult to say,” Poyet replied when asked if any other manager could have done better in his predicament. “

“What I can tell you is, if you ask the fans if they would like to be in this situation now, having beaten Newcastle twice and been 1-0 up in the (League Cup) final against Manchester City, I wonder how many would say they would take it.

“Me, I don’t. I came here with one thing in my mind – to get safe. I won’t stop until we are safe.

“People criticise me in a professional way, they’re right to do it and I don’t really pay attention.

“I do what’s best for the players, so I don’t care about the criticism coming my way.”

On Monday Poyet claimed Sunderland need “a miracle” to avoid relegation. With trips to Manchester City and Chelsea next, he is unapologetic – but some have added it to his charge sheet.

Also there are his five January signings, of whom only Marcos Alonso has had a positive impact.

“Nacho Scocco is still adapting to physicality of the English game,” said Poyet, who confirmed Phil Bardsley and Jack Colback have rejected new contracts.

“He is a player with plenty of credentials and quality. He takes a little longer than I would like to adapt, but there is no doubt about his quality. I still believe he can be a big part in the future here.

“Santiago Vergini is better than people think. He has been in a team defending more than we should be. We have never had a (settled) partnership for him.

“For Liam (Bridcutt) it has been easy (to adapt). He will do what I need at different times.

“There is greater responsibility on the players who have been here longer than to base it on the new players.

“The good thing is they are all suffering, not enjoying the situation we are in.”

Jozy Altidore and Ondrejs Celustka are both doubtful today but as they picked up their injuries playing for the under-21s while the first team was in action at White Hart Lane, it will not be a major loss. Of more concern is the news Steven Fletcher may not play again this season with an achilles problem.

Poyet added: “We’d hoped he might be able to make the last few games but I’m changing my opinion on that now.”

Chelsea’s Champions League exploits mean the Black Cats’ trip to Stamford Bridge will take place a day earlier than planned.

The game will kick off at 5.30pm on April 19.


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