Poyet, who parted ways with Brighton & Hove Albion in bizarre circumstances in June, appears set to beat out the likes of Roberto Di Matteo, Rene Meulensteen, Tony Pulis and Gianfranco Zola for the job vacated by Paolo Di Canio last month.
Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne reportedly made initial contact with Poyet on September 24—two days after relieving Di Canio of his duties following a players’ revolt—and has since sought a reference from Brighton supremo Paul Barber, who was responsible for the Uruguayan’s exit at both Tottenham Hotspur during the Juande Ramos era and at Falmer Stadium during the summer.
Black Cats director of football Roberto De Fanti has since recommended Poyet to club owner Ellis Short. Although, the time spent in finalizing the appointment may be reflective of the differing opinions on the 45-year-old (Mirror).
Reportedly impressed with the success Poyet delivered at Brighton during parts of four seasons between 2009 and 2013 (Telegraph), Short has also been advised that the former Spurs assistant is both more tactically acute than Di Canio and significantly less confrontational.
Both attributes, however, depend on whom is being asked.
In a May interview with The Independent, on-loan left-back Wayne Bridge insisted Poyet had “revitalized” his love of football, adding, “He got me to focus and enjoy my football. He is a top-class manager both tactically and on the man-management side—one of the best I have worked with.”
This, no doubt, is the sort of recommendation Poyet would prefer his prospective bosses to hear.
Popular with many of his players, he improved The Seagulls’ fortunes during each of his campaigns on the South Coast and also proved an astute, creative recruiter in the transfer market.
But his relationship with the hierarchy at his former club deteriorated over time, to the point where he claimed to have been sacked while working for the BBC during the Confederations Cup—six weeks after a playoff exit to Crystal Palace and frequent clashes with Brighton chairman Tony Bloom (Guardian).
“It’s the way I am,” he said at the time. “I am a coach, an honest person. I work the way I do. Everybody knows how I treat the players.”
And not all of them have appreciated his style.
Following the Palace loss, former Brighton winger Vicente described Poyet as “selfish” and “egocentric.”
“He is the worst person I’ve come across in football,” he told The Argus. “For example, he deceived me when he said I could go and then didn’t let me. I was four months out and injured and he wasn’t capable of coming up and asking how I was.”
He continued: “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 a shot in training, he makes fun. For me, that is unacceptable in football.”
Sunderland, it would appear, are willing to take the chance that Bridge’s version of their number-one managerial target will be the one that arrives at the Stadium of Light.
But in their effort to appoint the anti-Di Canio, they may not be going quite far enough.