With the appointment of Gus Poyet as new head coach, Sunderland are not just hoping for a period of stability but that he will preserve their English Premier League status after a disastrous start to the new season. As the Black Cats have only claimed one point from the opening seven matches, the Uruguayan faces a difficult task to achieve the latter especially since he is inheriting a squad which experienced a considerable overhaul during the summer.
Poyet was sacked from his previous management / coaching role at Brighton for alleged misconduct but he had established the team as play-off challengers without seriously vying for the automatic promotion places.
Sunderland’s new boss does have experience of playing in the Premier League but this will be first role as head coach in the first tier of English football, which bears striking similarities to his predecessor in the Wearside hot seat.
Paul Di Canio was dismissed after barely six months in the post and his only previous management experience was with Swindon Town in Leagues One and Two. Sunderland will be hoping that there will be no repeat of the alleged internal unrest so prevalent during the Di Canio reign.
Not that Gus Poyet is the quiet and amiable type as he too can be quite boisterous on occasions and he also needs to work with new Director of Football Roberto de Fanti, who has assumed responsibility for transfer activity at the club.
Whether Poyet can work under such conditions is another matter but his first priority will be to galvanise a squad short on confidence into accumulating some much needed points in their quest for survival. Sunderland travel to Swansea after the international break and the Liberty Stadium is never an easy place for an away team.
For the following weekend, there is the Tyne and Wear derby against Newcastle at the Stadium of Light, a match viewed by both groups of supporters as a game of massive importance for bragging rights in North East England.
Di Canio steered his Sunderland team to a 3-0 victory at St James’ Park in only his second match at the helm and the forthcoming fixture will also be Poyet’s second game as head coach. His Brighton team also beat Newcastle in two recent FA Cup ties and he also scored a brace against them in the 2000 FA Cup semi-final during a 2-1 win.
Another win against the Magpies will ensure that Poyet becomes an instant hero on Wearside, but Di Canio only won one further match after his day of glory and the new boss should be suitably wise to realise that long term safety is ultimately more important than short term glory.
The next few months will be important for Gus Poyet and Sunderland.