Is the Gus Poyet project ripping at the seams? Sunderland manager pens open letter

Sunderland have lurched from ordinary to poor form and pressure is mounting

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The Independent Football

“It is me. The words, right or wrong, are me.” Gus Poyet was referring to his unusual move on Monday of sitting down and writing an open letter to Sunderland supporters following a volatile FA Cup exit to League One Bradford. The supporters had mocked the manager, singing “It’s always our fault” during the 2-0 defeat.

If the letter was an impassioned plea for the fans to stick with him, Poyet’s comments as the team’s form lurched from ordinary to poor and the pressure mounted have been scattergun to say the least – as he accepted.

He pleaded: “I am not a politician. I am not going to change the world. I take it. I cannot be two people. I don’t want to be two people.

“I certainly don’t regret [what I say after a game]. I’m not that type of person. Sometimes I say things that they can sound in a certain way because of the way I express myself. If I bring a translator it will be even worse.

“Me, I don’t regret nothing that I say. It’s not against any one individual.

“I accept criticism when it is professional, I do, I do, it’s part of my game. I know I am not going to have a 100 per cent support of everybody. The closer you get to 80 or 90 the better. You will never get 100 never, never. Maybe you get 100 if you win the league. But I don’t think we will.”

Poyet, who first fell foul of the Sunderland board in a heated exchange after a heavy defeat at Tottenham last April, is not coping well with the pressure. And it has been difficult not to deduce from his public utterances that the Uruguayan’s project is creaking at the seams.

Asked in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s Cup defeat for his thoughts on the supporters, he turned his attack on the media. “The problem is you, not me,” he claimed. “If we close Sunderland, if we put a China Wall around the city, it would be fantastic.”

That was in reference to comments he had made after a bitterly disappointing home defeat to Queen’s Park Rangers, on 10 February. “That is what people want in the second half,” he said then. “They have been asking for a while but that craziness didn’t give us points either. It was a  desperate team running about and trying to be nice with the fans.”

After a goalless draw at home to Fulham in January had drawn jeers, Poyet said: “The fans are still living in the past. [Niall] Quinn and [Kevin] Phillips was kick and rush and it worked perfectly but it’s impossible now, you’d never get the ball back.”

In December he spoke of his unease with the Sunderland squad. “If we don’t get more quality in, it will be 38 games and 38 points,” he said. “If we lose two or three, everyone will start panicking and having heart attacks. I want more quality. Do I think I’ll get it? I don’t know.”

Sunderland have won just twice at home in the Premier League this season. They have failed to score in six games at the Stadium of Light. Home and away, there have been seven goalless draws.

Poyet feels he has been left to carry the can for others’ mistakes. Roberto De Fanti, the catastrophically over-promoted director of football, tried this week to justify his own time at the club. De Fanti, a small-time agent, was appointed on a whim by Ellis Short, the club owner, and sacked seven months later in January 2014.

The hotchpotch of signings he left behind drove Poyet’s predecessor Paolo Di Canio to even greater distraction and have been largely ignored by Poyet. Of those still at the club of the 13 signed in the summer of 2013, none started the last Premier League game.

Poyet’s most pressing fight is to stay in the Premier League. His side are two points behind West Bromwich Albion, whom they face at the Stadium of Light today, and two points above the  relegation zone.

The effect of Poyet’s letter – “I’ve never done it before so I don’t know if it’s right or wrong; it’s a feeling; I follow my instinct a lot; a massive percentage of my instincts have worked in my life” – will be played out on home soil.

He will start today with Jermain Defoe, the player he signed during the January transfer window, even though the forward is not quite fit. His options, on all fronts, are limited.