I have long been an admirer of Gus Poyet’s work. In his days as Brighton manager he instilled a style of football that is very rare in teams occupying the lower leagues and has done a decent job at Sunderland so far.
Last night Sunderland progressed into the final of the Capital One Cup, after defeating Manchester United on penalties at Old Trafford.
The men from the north east will now face a final against Manchester City.
However, that final will not be Sunderland’s priority this season and neither will Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round tie against Kidderminster Harriers.
Although they are nice distractions, Premier League survival is the name of the game for the Black Cats this season.
Since Gus Poyet’s arrival at the Stadium of Light there has been a massive improvement in the team’s performances. When the Uruguayan arrived on Wearside the Black Cats looked dead and buried at the bottom of the Premier League table.
However, he has reinstalled belief and raised morale at the Stadium of Light. The players now looked like they believe in the manager and more importantly themselves. The team is unrecognisable to the one that slumped to so many early season defeats under former-boss Paolo Di Canio.
Poyet has brought the best out of the likes of mercurial winger Adam Johnson and midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung in recent weeks. Both players have played a crucial part in gaining the Black Cats points in recent weeks.
Johnson scored his first ever hat-trick in the victory at Fulham, while Ki also got on the scoresheet and had a hand in the goals. Johnson scored and created goals in his team’s 2-2 draw against Southampton in their last outing.
Poyet has had an obvious effective of those two players in particular, but he seems to have had a major impact on the Sunderland squad as a whole.
The Black Cats recent good run of form has given them a major chance of surviving in the Premier League this season. The Black Cats are now just one point away from safety and the likes of Fulham and Crystal Palace above them also have worse goal difference.
The bottom of the table is very tight though, as just six points separates bottom of the table Cardiff and Aston Villa in 10th position. Realistically any of the teams in the bottom ten could still be relegated this season.
Sunderland are one of the teams in the bottom half who have found a bit of form in the last month. The Black Cats have claimed a shock 1-0 win at high-flying Everton and a 4-1 victory at relegation rivals Fulham.
Poyet’s side have failed to win in their last two Premier League home matches, drawing 2-2 with Southampton in their last match and losing 1-0 to relegation rivals Aston Villa in their previous home clash.
However, the Black Cats have defeated Manchester United 2-1 and Carlisle 3-1 in cup competitions in-between those two disappointing results, so they can win at home, but they must do it on a more regular basis.
The fans at the Stadium of Light could play a vital part in their team surviving the drop to the Championship this season. The team have shown they have enough quality in recent weeks with vital victories and the home games could now be crucial in the Black Cats maintaining their top-flight status this season.
Sunderland face an absolutely vital home game with Stoke on Wednesday night. A victory against the Potters could move the Black Cats out of the relegation zone and give the team confidence ahead of the north east derby clash with Newcastle next weekend.
The visitors are just four points above the Black Cats in the Premier League table and a Sunderland win could drag them further into the relegation dogfight.
If I was a Sunderland fan I would be confident of surviving the drop under Gus Poyet. The Uruguayan has done a decent job so far and Sunderland has got quality within their ranks to escape trouble.
The season started off very badly for Sunderland and they looked doomed to relegation for the first half of the season. However, things are now looking up.
Not only do the Black Cats have a Capital One Cup final to look forward to, they now have a very good chance of escaping relegation, as the bookmakers make them odds of 11/8 to be relegated, fourth favourites to go down.
I do not think that Sunderland fans could have asked for much more from their boss than a Capital One Cup final appearance and a good chance of staying up.
Will Sunderland beat the drop this season?