Gus Poyet, Sunderland
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Gus Poyet: Blacks Cats survival one of my proudest moments

| 09.03.2022

Gus Poyet made almost 200 Premier League appearances for Chelsea and Tottenham between 1997-2004 before embarking on a career in management.

The Uruguayan gave an exclusive interview to Ladbrokes with his thoughts on the current Chelsea team, the troubles at Manchester United and why Mikel Arteta is proving so successful at Arsenal.

In part two, he discussed his 17 difficult months in charge at Sunderland and his pride at keeping them up in the 2013-14 season when he also took them to the League Cup final.

A Sunderland fan stopped me at traffic lights in my first week in charge and told me two things I needed to do to succeed…

Within a week of taking the job in Sunderland, I was stuck in traffic with my assistant manager. A car pulls up next to us and signals that he wants us to wind our window down. I’m no good with the impression so I’ll leave that out – but he shouts for us to wind the window down – so I do… and he told me I needed to do two things to succeed in the job. Stay up and beat Newcastle. “That’s all we’re asking from you! Thanks very much.” and off he goes…

We played Newcastle three times, and we beat them three times. And, of course, we stayed up – albeit in pretty dramatic fashion.

When we went to Man City – it was the year they won the league – there was no pressure on us. We went 1-0 down inside three minutes and I wasn’t nervous at all. Nobody expected us to do anything at all, and obviously we turned it around and nearly took all three points, but for a late equaliser from Samir Nasri.

Then we went to Chelsea, where Jose Mourinho had never lost at home in the league in 78 games – we put that run to an end. But, again, I wasn’t too nervous about that game because nobody was expecting Sunderland to do anything… and we won.

Then we were at home against Cardiff and I was very, very confident that we’d win that game, especially after the two results we’d just managed against Chelsea and Manchester City. We beat them 4-0 and up next was Manchester United away. They had recently sacked David Moyes and Ryan Giggs was in charge. Sunderland had a really bad record away at Man United so, again, I was not expecting anything from that fixture, and I really didn’t feel any pressure going into the game. We won again.

Gus Poyet, Sunderland

Now the game against West Brom was the most nervous I’ve been in my life, and I’ll explain why. After defeat against Everton, we were as good as down, quite simply. That was the reality. We needed a miracle. But all of a sudden we turned a corner and took points off Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, all away from home, ending records and runs in the process. We’d given ourselves a chance and then we came up against a West Brom side who were playing for nothing – they were already safe. All we needed to do was win this game and we were safe. It all came down to that moment, at home, and it was in our hands.

I remember when Jack Colback scored and then Fabio Borini made it 2-0. From that moment, it was a game where the clock never seemed to move. Sixty minutes in, I’m watching the clock and it’s not moving. I’m watching the game for what feels like an eternity, then look back at the clock and it’s on 61 minutes. What is this? What is happening? Time almost stood still and it was one of the longest nights I’ve ever experienced.

It really was one of my proudest ever moments at the end of that game. I wanted to stay on the pitch all night. I just remember going around, celebrating with the supporters. It was like we’d won the title. You can’t even begin to imagine how much it meant to the Sunderland fans. I have to say that season was one of the most difficult, stressful and draining seasons of my life, both as a player and as a manager. I’ve never suffered like that, before or since, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it because we achieved something incredible.

Gus Poyet, Sunderland

At the end of the season the chairman wanted to negotiate a new contract with me, and I had to ask him if I could go away for 10 days or so – I just didn’t want to think about football! I had gone through so much in those months, and I was always going to sit down with him eventually, but I just needed to get away from football. The repercussions of that Premier League status and maintaining it are bigger than anything in football – forget about all the other leagues, so you can imagine the relief once you’re away from it all, relaxing on holiday. When you step away from it and think about what you achieved as a team, it becomes even more incredible.

I celebrated with the players in the dressing room, and they deserve a lot of credit for sticking with the task. For so long it seemed like we just couldn’t lift ourselves out of the position we were in, but we finally did it. I went into my office afterwards, slumped into my sofa and just breathed a massive sigh of relief. My staff were all standing around me, we just could not stop saying ‘wow’. It was exhausting. As a player, I know what it’s like to be tired physically, but let me tell you, being mentally exhausted is a completely different thing. Forget it. But luckily we did it, so I’ll always have those positive memories to look back on.

You need to live there, in Sunderland, to understand how much that club means to the people of the city. The core of the city is the club, so seeing them down there in League One hurts me. Every year becomes a little bit more difficult – it hurts me a lot. I’d like to help them, but many things need to come together in order for me to do so.

They still hold an incredibly special place in my heart, and I still look at their results every week.

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Alex Apati

Alex has been with the Ladbrokes PR team since 2017 having previously worked for the news department. From sparring with Peter Fury to talking interviews on the Duke and Duchess' baby names, he's covered a range of sports and novelty events.

A frustrated West Brom fan who is no stranger to an oche, Alex is originally from Dudley, although he's worked hard to rid himself of the Black Country twang.