Gus Poyet is ready to hand Wes Brown his first Premier League start for 22 months as he seeks a quick fix to Sunderland’s problems before the Wear-Tyne derby.
Brown made it through 90 minutes for the under-21 side on Saturday as they drew 2-2 with a youthful Chelsea side and Poyet spend Sunday poring over tapes of the match to see how the four senior Sunderland men who featured reacted to their demotion. It is understood that the Black Cats boss was impressed by Brown’s contribution, and has received impressive testimonials about the ex-Manchester United man which will sway his thinking – if Brown can prove his fitness in training this week. The defender was similarly collected when he turned out in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week.
Bringing back a player who has not featured in any competitive games since January 2012 is a major risk given Newcastle’s pacey forward-line, but Poyet is of the opinion that he needs more experience and know-how to get out of the worrying situation Sunderland find themselves in.
Poyet offered a ringing endorsement of Brown’s capabilities last week and hinted that he would try to find a place for him as soon as possible – a time that is drawing closer with every minute he gets through unhindered.
“He could be everything that you need in the Premier League, he’s experienced, he’s played at the highest level at one of the best teams in the world and he knows the game well,” he said. “Hopefully we can see him very soon on the pitch.”
It would mark a remarkable change in fortune for Brown, who was given the option of settling up his contract over the summer by the Sunderland management.
Poyet has pledged not to ring the changes to his back four, but after Saturday’s 4-0 reverse he is prepared to look at ways the team can be improved within the current squad. Summer arrival Valentin Roberge has yet to stamp his authority and there are doubts surrounding Modibo Diakite too. The constant changing of personnel also seems to have affected John O’Shea’s form, although the Republic of Ireland defender is not at risk of being axed.
Similarly, Poyet has defended Phil Bardsley despite his unhappy return to the Black Cats side. He is also likely to start when Sunderland welcome Newcastle on Sunday.
Poyet was asked about the likelihood of a return for Cabral, Diakite and Brown on Saturday, but said he would scour the footage first.
A recall for the struggling Cabral seems unlikely and Sunderland will consider allowing him to depart on loan in January if he fails to make an impact between now and the New Year transfer window. Poyet cut a determined figure after the Swansea game, claiming that the size of the task he faces turning around Sunderland’s season has not surprised him.
But he has told the coaching staff that his first priority is to patch up a back four which has conceded too many goals from corners.
As part of that he has expressed a desire to keep the personnel as similar as possible.
“There have been plenty of changes to the back four,” he said. “There are different reasons for that – if John O’Shea gets a red card, you need a new centre-half. That’s common sense.
“But there have been too many changes for my liking.
“People are different over change. I see Man United change every game in a row and don’t have a problem. But I like my defensive unit to be consistent so we know each other so well that we can help each other.
“With one word, we know where we are. If this is the back four, can they show me that? If yes, then they stay.”