Sunderland boss hits out at ‘disgraceful’ Christmas fixture schedule

Gus Poyet
Gus Poyet
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SUNDERLAND head coach Gus Poyet has hit out at the Christmas fixture schedule as he attempts to rally his troops after a Boxing Day defeat.

The Black Cats headed into Friday’s clash with Hull at the Stadium of Light riding the crest of a wave after their 1-0 derby victory at Newcastle, but succumbed in tepid fashion – despite taking a first-minute lead – to lose 3-1 to a side which had not won in 10 Barclays Premier League fixtures.

A stunned Poyet later admitted his team had simply not been good enough, but as he turned his attention to Sunday’s trip to Aston Villa, admitted he could not quite understand why he was having to do so.

The Uruguayan said: “One of the good things is that we play again in two days. That’s the only good thing about playing today.

“We shouldn’t be playing on the 28th. I’ve been in England for a long time and I know that Boxing Day games are a tradition and I accept that and think we should maintain it.

“But I think that then playing on the 28th is a disgrace. We shouldn’t be playing then, we shouldn’t.

If you want to see the best players performing well, you need to make sure you are not playing every two days.

“It is not needed. That is not tradition and anyone who says it is is not telling the truth.”

Whatever else Poyet feels about having to send out a team at Villa Park, it will at least give his players an opportunity to atone for a desperately bad day at the office.

They looked to be cruising after Adam Johnson took full-advantage of central defender Curtis Davies’ calamitous error to give the home side the lead with just 30 seconds on the clock, but they failed to build upon it and the Tigers responded.

There was an element of good fortune about Gaston Ramirez’s equaliser - his first goal for the club - when his shot bounced wickedly in front of helpless keeper Costel Pantilimon and sailed into the net, and visitors were also grateful for referee Andre Marriner’s charitable interpretation of two penalty appeals.

But having nudged the door open, the eventually burst through it as James Chester header and a 96th-minute strike by substitute Nikica Jelavic claimed the points.

They were aided and abetted in no small part by a limp second-half display from the home side, and Poyet, who was less than impressed by Mr Marriner’s contribution to the game, knows they cannot afford a repeat in the Midlands.

He said: “We need to perform better, [make] better decisions on the ball, not hurry and get carried away with the noise and the fans pushing us forward.

“We hit too many balls forward because of the atmosphere created by the person in black. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes people make, we have a way of playing football and we should not get away from that because some people are trying to make us go quicker than we should.

“We have some qualities and we need to respect those qualities. For us, it is important to believe in what we do and not what people think we should be doing.

“That was the disappointing part of the second half, that we didn’t cope with the noise and the atmosphere in the second half, which was definitely created by the referee.”

Poyet will welcome back striker Connor Wickham back from a one-match ban, although he was quick to dismiss any suggestion that the 21-year-old’s absence against Hull had been a factor.

He said: “I don’t think that was the case. If so and he plays on Sunday, then we will win?”