Gus Poyet took charge at Sunderland on Tuesday on a mission to restore unity to the struggling English Premier League club following the divisiveness of Paolo Di Canio‘s brief, stormy reign.
Poyet’s immediate challenge is to produce Sunderland’s first victory in the league, with the northeast club bottom with just one point from seven matches.
“Trust me, believe, connect with the team,” Poyet said after signing a two-year contract. “We are all together in this. It’s important now we stick together.”
As with Di Canio’s appointment in March, American owner Ellis Short has hired a man with no previous top-flight managerial experience.
“It’s a big, big challenge,” Poyet said. “I thought that I would have an opportunity in the Premier League and now I’ve got it I need to make sure I prove that they picked the right man to get us from the situation that we are.”
The former Uruguay midfielder began his mission with a managerial approach far removed from that of the maverick Di Canio, who left amid claims — disputed by the Italian — of player unrest.
“The idea is to address the problems quickly, make sure that we train and convince the players to get better, and then slowly that will make us pick up points,” Poyet said. “The sooner we win the better, but the idea is to make sure that we understand the way we would like them to play football. We think it’s the best way.
“So there has to be a very good communication with the players — understanding, trust. We need to commit as a group. We need to make sure that we are all together, the players, the staff, the fans. Make sure that we are very strong to make sure we can win football games.”
The 45-year-old has quickly found work again despite being fired by second-tier club Brighton in June for gross misconduct.
He becomes Sunderland’s sixth permanent manager in less than five years, with Di Canio lasting only six months in the job before being fired in September.
“We analyzed a wide range of candidates and believe that Gus’ track record, experience, commitment and passion make him the right man to take us forward,” said Short, the American businessman who bought Sunderland in 2008.
As a midfielder, Poyet spent his peak playing years with Zaragoza, Chelsea and Tottenham before becoming assistant manager to Dennis Wise at Swindon in 2006. He followed Wise to Leeds before Tottenham hired him to work under Juande Ramos in October 2007. Although Poyet won the League Cup with Ramos at Tottenham early in 2008, they were fired in October after a poor start to the season.
Poyet, though, was soon handed his first managerial job in 2009 at Brighton, which was then in the third tier, steering the south-coast club to promotion in 2011 by winning the League One title. The team missed out on promotion to the Premier League in May by losing in the League Championship playoffs before Poyet was fired.
Now Poyet is back in work and he has almost two weeks during the international break to plan for Sunderland’s next match at Swansea on Oct. 19.
The players have shown signs they were starting to gel under interim manager Kevin Ball in recent weeks, with a League Cup victory over third-tier club Peterborough followed by stronger showings in losses to Liverpool and Manchester United.
“If there were no talented players and no quality players the challenge would be practically impossible,” Poyet said. “I am convinced the players are good enough.”