The general consensus, in the wake of Paolo Di Canio’s sacking, was that Sunderland’s owner Ellis Short had to get the next managerial appointment right, or else his club could disappear into the doldrums of the relegation zone.
Having sacked Martin O’Neill and replaced him with the Italian’s combustible nature, Short had very little room for error as he set about to seek a manager capable to lift Sunderland from the bottom of the table where they’ve been rooted for weeks.
With that in mind, the appointment of Gus Poyet sounds more of an hazard that Sunderland fans might have hoped for after seeing the back of Di Canio.
The Uruguayan is undoubtedly an emerging manager, having led Brighton to promotion from League One to the Championship in 2011 in his first season in the dugout, before taking the Seagulls to their highest ever finish in 30 years.
Despite being less of a flair player than Di Canio in his playing days, Poyet developed a style for attacking football at Brighton, winning 44% of his game in charge of the South Coast club and his record should serve as a source of optimism for Sunderland fans who, after a positive start, saw their side become rather dull and predictable under Di Canio.
Many questioned Sunderland’s decision to appoint Di Canio, a manager who, like his successor, did not have any experience at Premier League level, despite leading Swindon from League Two to League One in 2012.
The Italian’s lack of pedigree in the top-flight wasn’t the only facet of Di Canio’s character many took exception with, for his strict regime and “rule with fear” attitude cost him the job at the Stadium of Light.
However, judging from former Brighton winger Vicente, Poyet is hardly a shrinking violet himself.
“For me he is a selfish person, very egocentric. I say that because it’s how I feel. I won’t talk badly about my team-mates, because they have been fantastic with me. What I think is unacceptable is that the manager makes fun of his players. I’ve seen things here that I have never seen in my career. If you miss with a shot in training, he makes fun. For me, that is unacceptable in football,” fired the Spaniard after he was released by the South Coast club last season.
The views of a disgruntled former employee should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt but Vicente’s assessment of Poyet’s managerial reign at Brighton could bring back unpleasant memories at the Stadium of Light.
However brusque or rigid he might be, the Uruguayan’s achievements with Brighton remain undisputed, just as the reasons behind his sacking remain unexplained and, as yet, just as farcical as the circumstances in which the news was delivered to the former Chelsea and Spurs midfielder.
Having tried to discover which bright mind had decided to decorate the away dressing room with human excrement prior to Brighton’s play-off semi-final against Palace, Poyet was suspended by his club and then sacked while acting as a pundit on the BBC during the Confederations Cup this summer.
Brighton’s Wayne Bridge called Poyet “a top-class manager both tactically and on the man-management side”, while former Sunderland player Michael Gray – who worked under Poyet when the Uruguayan was in the coaching staff at Leeds – described the Uruguayan as a “very passionate and competent man”.
Those are some glowing references, but the step to a team fighting for its life in the Premier League could still be a step too far for Poyet.