BROKEN English interrupted strains of Italian and French when Gus Poyet wandered onto the Academy of Light turf for the first time earlier this week.
Even though Sunderland’s two South Koreans were among nine players away on international duty, Poyet still caught a glimpse of the diversity in the Black Cats’ League of Nations squad.
But Poyet has been here before, albeit on the other side of the fence.
The Uruguayan was joined by team-mates from Russia, Nigeria, Romania and Italy when he arrived as a player at Chelsea in 1997, as the London club began their pre-Roman Abramovich progression under Ruud Guillit and then Gianluca Vialli.
Yet the language barrier was immediately conquered by the most English of elements at the club, Dennis Wise.
Skipper Wise – who would go on to work alongside Poyet in management at Swindon and Leeds – insisted that all of the overseas exports communicated in English.
It was a successful policy and one which Poyet intends to implement on Wearside to benefit both communication and the bond between Sunderland’s players.
“Wisey was outstanding,” Poyet said.
“One day, there were a few words in another language that Wisey didn’t understand and he said ‘that’s it’.
“From then on, everyone had to speak English.
“In the beginning, you were thinking ‘why did he say that?’.
“But he was right; spot on.
“It was one of the biggest decisions Dennis made in his career.
“Everyone had to learn English to get into the team.
“Then the families started to meeting each others – mine, Gianfranco’s (Zola), Roberto’s (Di Matteo) and you start making a bit of a group.
“When you are on the pitch, you are with friends. There’s a mate there.
“You should have that feeling anyway because you’re playing for the club.
“But when it’s a little bit extra, it pays off.”
One of Poyet’s attributes which appealed to Sunderland’s hierarchy was the 45-year-old’s ability to converse in four languages.
And although he is adamant that his players must learn English, he has attempted to put across his message to Sunderland’s overseas players in their native tongues this week.
“On my first day, I tried to speak the languages,” added Poyet.
“I spoke to (Modibo) Diakite in Italian and tried a little bit of my French.
“I speak French, Italian, Spanish and bad English.
“But we need to increase Diakite’s English now! And we will.”