Gus Poyet today accused Brighton and Hove Albion of a lack of “respect” and denied their claim that he knew he was to be sacked by the club while he was live on air as a BBC pundit last month, after the Championship club stood by their decision to dismiss the Uruguayan.
Poyet, 45, said he will now take a few days to decide whether to pursue the matter in court, after he has meetings with his lawyers and the League Managers’ Association. But he was adamant that Brighton’s claims that he knew in advance that he was to be dismissed on the evening of 23 June, when he was a BBC pundit for Uruguay’s Confederations Cup game against Tahiti, were wrong.
The presenter that night, Mark Chapman, told Poyet live on air about the club statement released at 8pm announcing that the club had sacked him following a suspension that they had earlier initiated. When Poyet told Chapman that this was the first he had heard about the sacking, the club’s behaviour was roundly condemned and the episode became a major talking point.
The following day Brighton responded to the criticism by issuing a statement in which they said that Poyet was “well aware, before he appeared on the BBC ... that his dismissal was pending”. Poyet said that when he turned off his mobile phone at 7.20pm on the night of 23 June as far as he was aware his advisors were still in negotiations with the club until Chapman broke the news to him.
Poyet, in a phone interview with The Independent today, said: “They said the dismissal was pending. What I’m saying is that nobody said to me I was going to be sacked on that Sunday evening and there’s no proof [of that to support Brighton’s claim]. The two parties were negotiating and if there had been an agreement we would have shaken and hands and said ‘goodbye’.
“I turned my phone off at 7.20pm and they were still negotiating. They decided to sack me during the programme. Obviously the negotiations didn’t go that well. The club decided to sack me and released a statement at 8pm. Then I was live on television and nobody was able to contact me to tell me that was coming.
“They can say whatever they like but I didn’t know they were going to sack me. They sent me an email telling me at 12 minutes eight o’clock and then released the news on their website at 8pm.
“I was very disappointed to get the sack and even more the way they did it. I think I deserved more respect. For the achievements we had together – the fans, players and staff – as a manager I deserved a better outcome like a meeting with the people from the club and not to have it done when I was on TV.”
Poyet said his greatest regret at the nature of his dismissal – he was suspended and placed under investigation on 16 May by Brighton and told to stay away from the club – was that he had not been able to speak to the fans and players. He is still not able to go into detail as to the exact reasons why he was dismissed and only received today the full text from the club of the appeal hearing result.
Poyet said: “I didn’t expect to finish this way after what we did together – the fans, the players and the staff. Sometimes when you leave a club you hold a press conference. It is important the fans know that I appreciate the way they treated me and supported me, from the first game with 7,000 there to my last game at the Amex with 32,000 people. It was spectacular. They were very patient with me.
“The Brighton fans knew I was changing the team’s way of playing and they were patient and they liked the way that Brighton played. It is a massive ‘thank-you’ to them. Secondly, my players. I have had a terrible two months not being able to talk to the players. I have a great relationship with them and not being able to tell them my side of the story has been hard.
“Somehow I coped with that. It wasn’t easy. I would like to thank them publicly as well. They really enjoyed the way we played football and we were so close [to promotion to the Premier League]. Sometimes there’s no explanation when you don’t make it.”
When his situation is resolved with Brighton, Poyet said that he would like to manage in the Premier League. “I think I had have had great preparation: two assistant manager jobs at Swindon and Leeds with Dennis Wise and then another with Juande Ramos at Spurs. I have had three and a half years at Brighton. I have improved every year. I think I am ready to have a go at the Premier League.”
In a club statement today, Brighton said: “Following a suspension, investigation, disciplinary meeting, and separate appeal hearing, which was conducted by three members of the club's board in London on 11 July and 12 July, Brighton and Hove Albion confirmed that after further consideration Gus Poyet's dismissal for gross misconduct has been upheld. The panel's decision was delivered to Gus Poyet and his advisers a short time ago.
“The club's internal disciplinary process is now complete. In line with the club's policy to ensure and maintain confidentiality and dignity throughout this process, no further details of the disciplinary or appeal hearings will be released at this time.
“Despite the extremely disappointing end to Mr Poyet's career with Brighton and Hove Albion, the club would like to acknowledge Mr Poyet's service to the club, which included leading the club to the Football League League One championship in 2011 and to its highest league finish for more than 30 years in 2013.”