Gus Poyet has been on the job at Sunderland for just over a month, and with his team still in 19th place, this seems like a curious time to start throwing down gauntlets. Yet the Uruguayan, fired from his previous job at Brighton & Hove Albion, has taken a stand as it concerns the club’s transfer policy. Despite the presence of director of football Roberto De Fanti, Poyet wants final say on all incoming talent. And if somebody he rejects is still signed? He wants nothing to do with the club.
“We talked about a position the other day and considered four players,” Poyet said after a meeting with De Fanti and chief scout Valentino Angeloni last week (as reported on by The Guardian). “I picked two. It was simple. One of the other two [selected by De Fanti] was a definite no. If that one is coming, I won’t be here. The player has to be the right one for me. If not, I’m not going to accept it.”
Spoken like a Champions League winner, not somebody with 44 days of top-flight experience.
It’s not an uncommon attitude in England, where the old, fading conception of a do-everything (except actually train the team) manager is still part of the culture. At Sunderland, however, the Black Cats are employing a more continental approach, distinguishing between the head coach and the people in charge of scouting and signing new talent.
Poyet seems to want to be an old-style manager in a more modern organization.
“I met with Roberto and Valentino and said what I think we need. They need to give me the options and I need to pick the ones I like …
“I’m sure it’s going to be done in the right way, in the common-sense way. Everyone has a responsibility and then the player has to be the right one for me.”
When it comes to organizing management responsibilities, there may not be a right and wrong, but there is a “common-sense” view of treading lightly in new surroundings. Poyet was out of soccer seven weeks ago, and since being hired by Sunderland he hasn’t exactly revolutionized the team’s on-field performance. Things are looking better, but there’s still much to do. Poyet hasn’t proven himself, and he’s certainly in no position to be making demands of his new employers.
But from Poyet’s point of view, he may see this as a fight worth waging, particularly after predecessor Paolo Di Canio was given 14 new players over the summer. If Poyet is going to be judged on his ability to work with talent, he wants to make sure they’re guys he signs off on.
And really, what manager wouldn’t want to wrestle as much control as possible? It’s just part of the English game, and although the use of a director of football is becoming more common, there’s still little backlash when somebody like Poyet goes public with this type of stance. Plus, given the crisis that brought him to Sunderland, he might actually end up getting what he wants.