I’ve never been one of those blokes who got lucky as a result of my devilish good looks with ladies swooning across a crowded dance floor. My limited success with women was mainly achieved through getting to know someone a bit first (friend of a friend, work) and then attempting to snare them into a date (…hmm, perhaps snare not the best word)
snare charm them into going out with me by slowly, persistently grinding them into submission. Thus were the only meaningful relationships in my life born. The sudden exciting rush of the, let’s be honest, all too rare, one night stands haven’t left any indelible mark in my memory. And so it is with regards to the latest nascent relationship focusing my thoughts, between my beloved team and our new manager Gus Poyet.
I’m prone to the optimistic end of the realism spectrum so I think I’m probably naturally inclined to feel a little positive and hopeful about Mr Poyet’s arrival on Wearside. Obviously it’s still in the new-bloke-at-work, can’t-work-the-coffee machine phase of proceedings but I’m feeling hopeful about things. It’s worth qualifying that hope by saying I still think our chances of staying up are worse than 50:50 but in the long term, I think Poyet could be a really good appointment. I certainly feel better about it than I did when Paolo Di Canio came in.
As Richard Mason neatly summed up in the Northern Echo, Poyet has seen the good (Mags), the bad (Swansea) and the ugly (Hull *not a reference to Steve Bruce) in his time at Sunderland and then the rather subdued (for a club who’s won nowt in my entire lifetime) passage into the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup.
I know some people were disappointed not to get any sort of ‘new manager bounce’ at Swansea and the first half at Hull (even before the suicidal bit) was abysmal by all accounts. It would be harsh to aim any criticism at Poyet though. He can only really tell what he’s got to work with by playing games and by trying out different things. It’s limited what you can learn from training sessions and he obviously doesn’t have the luxury of meaningless pre-season games. Yes, people are pissed off with the old guard of John O’Shea, Phil Bardsley, Seb Larsson et al who have been part of our recent misery but maybe Poyet can still get some sort of positive contribution out of them. They certainly owe us something I think.
So, what of the positives? Well, a 100% win record at home! Okay, he’s only played two games at home but in a season as lean as this you’ve got to bend the stats in whatever positive shape you can manage. There’s probably not a lot to add to what’s already been said about the Mags game but it was certainly the best experience I’ve had at the SOL in a good few years. Tactically, Poyet outsmarted his opposite number and the players, to a man, put in a shift. The second half at Hull, with 9 men, suggests at a manager with at least some organisational nous.
I understand why some fans don’t share this optimism. We’ve had a lot of new relationships where we thought ‘this is the one’. Quinny and Roy Keane’s magic carpet ride briefly seemed like the answer before the latter seemed to lose his way a bit. More recently, in Martin O’Neill we seemed to have finally landed the one we’d been chasing for years. A former fan himself, a measure of success everywhere he’s been, likable, erudite, but sadly some things are not meant to be and not getting what you want is sometimes the best thing that can happen to you. With the fragile state of the current squad it was always going to be hard for Poyet to have the instant impact that O’Neill had and, ultimately, that new manager bounce was as good as it got for Martin.
So maybe, this is the one? Maybe Poyet can be the man to restore a bit of pride, strengthen that bond between fans and club and, who knows, win a few games? We may well get humped by Manchester City tomorrow – we can’t keep on being outplayed by them and winning 1-0 surely? We really need to try and get a least a point from one of the next three tough home games. In the long run though, maybe this relationship could be the one? Keep the faith.
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