SUNDERLAND will resist any approach from Southampton to try to tempt away Gus Poyet should the Saints come calling at the Stadium of Light.
The Uruguayan has been installed as one of the bookies early favourites to take over at St Mary’s if, as seems likely, Mauricio Pochettino quits his job as Southampton manager to take over as Tottenham Hotspur boss.
Spurs supremo Daniel Levy is thought to be in advanced talks with the 42-year-old about taking over from the sacked Tim Sherwood at White Hart Lane.
And with most agencies reporting that the bid to take the former Espanyol boss to North London is almost a done deal, attention has switched to who will succeed the South American at Southampton, with Poyet installed as the early bookies’ favourite.
It is not hard to see why.
Poyet’s standing is high after a remarkable spell at Sunderland saw him pull off the most unlikely of Premier League survivals while taking the club to a Capital One Cup final and FA Cup quarter-final.
During that time he conducted himself with dignity and class, making a positive impression on, as well as off the field on Wearside.
His four years at Brighton underlined the fact he would have no problems working on the south coast.
But of more relevance is that Poyet is a big admirer of Southampton’s style and squad.
He spoke in glowing terms of the Saints’ side during the season and has even gone as far as to suggest that the current Southampton side are the template Sunderland should model themselves on.
Furthermore, despite his success at the Stadium of Light, there have been suggestions that behind the scenes there are problems at the club, with Poyet himself suggesting in early April: “There is something wrong at the heart of the club and I intend to find out what it is.”
Poyet also made the point in his final media conference of the season that he intended to press owner Ellis Short on what sort of club he wanted: “Some clubs start the season looking to finish between 12th and 17th. What do we want?
“Normally, you ask what the chairman wants and then you go with the challenge.”
Poyet is an ambitious young manager and will seek assurances from Short that the club has genuine aspirations to be a top 10 side.
Southampton are already a top 10 side of course and could offer Poyet a short-cut to success although there are plenty of other names in the frame – Roberto Di Matteo, Neil Lennon, David Moyes, Dan Petrescu and Michael Laudrup – and Pochettino has not even gone yet.
But regardless of how things pan out between Southampton and Spurs, Sunderland will not welcome any interest in a manager who remains under contract for another year at the Stadium of Light.
West Ham were strongly linked with a move for Sunderland several weeks ago, although nothing came of it.
But had the Hammers come calling, their interest would have been rebuffed and the Black Cats will give the same response to any other club who inquires about an approach for the Uruguayan this summer.
There is no doubt though that any speculation over Poyet’s position at Sunderland can only strengthen his hand in any internal power struggle at the club.