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Wednesday 23 August 2017

John Giles: Gus Poyet drew the short straw at Sunderland

Sunderland's former manager Gus Poyet
Sunderland's former manager Gus Poyet

GUS Poyet knew last summer that he wouldn't last the season at Sunderland. He knew it when he publicly questioned the club's transfer policy and that's when he should have walked with his head held high.

Ellis Short is not a very good football club owner. He makes bad calls hiring and firing and on two or three occasions, has failed to recognise his remarkable good fortune in picking good managers to run his football club.

The two managers who preceded him should have raised a big red flag for Poyet. Martin O'Neill walked away and Short hired Paolo di Canio.

But I can understand why Poyet was prepared to suspend his instinct for self preservation and take the Sunderland job when it was offered.

He was a good young manager with a reputation as a great man manager and I have no doubt that Short was prepared to accept whatever terms Poyet felt minded to ask for.

I reckon the problems for Poyet began a week after they avoided relegation in a truly miraculous fashion, almost trumping what Tony Pulis pulled off at Crystal Palace.

Both feats were clear evidence of men with a high level of expertise in their chosen profession. The qualities needed to bring a group of men through an intensely pressurised environment like a football club on the brink of relegation are the same in any walk of life.

I'm certain that Poyet went into a meeting with Short and the layer of decision makers the Sunderland owner has collected at the Stadium of Light to make sure he retained full control and asked for some money for players once he saved his boss about £60m.

I'll bet Poyet's pride and delight over his great achievement went sour very, very quickly when he realised that someone else had a better idea than he did about which players he wanted to bring in and that Short insisted on this as a condition of the job.

For me, that was the time to walk. Poyet had just pulled off a miracle and could have walked into any job if he had gathered up his courage and walked out the door and left Short to explain why the man who saved him was now available for hire.

That's what Pulis did. But he is a more experienced man and recognised immediately where the Crystal Palace situation was headed and took matters into his own hands.

It takes great courage and self-belief to do that. It's not so much a matter of principle as a matter of practicality.

Pulis knew he couldn't work in the way he wanted to so he packed his bag and left. That in turn gave him the power to name his own terms at West Brom.

I have sympathy for Poyet because it looks to me like he didn't get the terms he wanted and was not in control of the buying and selling of players. I think he was a bit naive and seemed surprised by the circumstances he found himself in after saving the club from the drop.

Fair enough, he had reason to expect that he had won some power for himself by becoming the most popular man on Wearside but Short's track record is not good.

Short was clearly unwilling to hand over his money to the man who saved him a fortune and I'm sure he will have found a way to rationalise this.

I'm sure he still believes in the 'business model' even though it has failed consistently.

Each time it has failed, the manager has taken the stick and in Sunderland, that can be very bitter stick indeed and not for the faint-hearted.

Short slides under the worst of abuse and hires another manager to fill the gap. Dick Advocaat is the latest recruit, another man plucked from the sky and a big gamble.

All management appointments are a punt but surely it makes no sense to hire a man on spec when you've just fired a coach who proved he could do the job six months previously.

Obviously, Short has no understanding of football. It never ceases to amaze me that a businessman would ignore what is a very successful method in favour of his own which fails time and time again.

Once again I find myself tipping my hat to the Glazer family and their approach to football club ownership.

They are smart men who tried to continue with the model which delivered so much under Alex Ferguson by appointing David Moyes. It was very clear that they wanted another Scotsman to settle into Ferguson's seat while it was still warm and if possible, keep the whole machine rolling along.

That didn't work. An owner should never leave a manager in place for the sake of a principle either.

But the Louis van Gaal appointment is following the same path. He's a man who wants things done his own way and I think the Glazers are willing to give him the same latitude they gave Ferguson.

Again, this is a gamble. There are no guarantees but the Glazers deal with as many of the variables as they can by hiring an expert to do a job and leaving him at it.

 

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