POYET’S THREATENED to walk. Poyet’s going to quit. Poyet’s gone.
Those have been the whispers swirling around Wearside since the weekend after Gus Poyet opened the Pandora’s Box by declaring there was an omnipresent self-destructive force at work which had hampered a succession of Sunderland managers.
After Saturday’s defeat to Everton, Poyet was evasive when asked whether he would remain at the Stadium of Light to oversee these kiss-of-life changes or if he would walk away.
There was no change in that stance in his press conference yesterday, prior to tonight’s trip to Manchester City.
Poyet was directly asked if he would be sticking around. Again, there was no yes or no answer.
“To answer that, I need to define what needs to be changed and what I think needs to be changed,” he said.
“Things need to be accepted as well.
“Are we going to change things that I believe? Sometimes things are not possible.”
Clear? Not really.
But a measure of calm and perspective needs to be injected into these proceedings.
This is not a black and white case.
SportMail understands that Poyet is by no means looking to leave. His commitment to the project remains intact.
There is no plan to flee the sinking ship because of relegation or the magnitude of the task to completely turn around the fortunes at this club.
Far from it, in fact.
Poyet’s objective is to lay down some long-term foundations at Sunderland, so that his successor - whether that is in two, three, four, five or more years time - doesn’t inherit the almighty mess that he faced when he arrived on Wearside six months ago.
But that will require a complete sea-change in attitudes, mentalities, structures and personnel.
Poyet needs the support to do that. It’s a challenge he is laying down, not a threat.
Sunderland’s hierarchy need to be ready to embrace new attitudes and fresh ways of operating.
They should be open minded enough to adopt them too. Why wouldn’t they be? The current working practices have produced a shambles.
The first thing that needs to change is the players, or more pertinently the mentality of them. They have been the common denominator over recent seasons.
Poyet has publicly claimed that Sunderland would already be down if it wasn’t for their run to the Capital One Cup final. It injected some momentum and confidence into the side, and it rubbed off on their Premier League results.
But there is also a feeling at the Academy of Light that since the final, Sunderland’s players have downed tools.
Poyet is understood to have significant question marks over the attitude and mentality of the squad he inherited. That much has been evident by some of his public pronouncements over the last few weeks.
Results would certainly back up that argument. So too would the performance in the key relegation battle at Norwich City last month.
Maybe that stems from having too many players who know they will not be at the club next season.
Maybe that stems from players ensuring they don’t get injured before the World Cup.
Maybe it stems from players not boasting sufficient desire to beat the drop.
But maybe there is problem which is a more long term one; the lack of a structure in place which ensures these wealthy young men maintain their hunger to succeed, rather than becoming complacent.
Poyet has already made changes on that score, but is keen to make more.
It’s not a case of returning to the days of the Paolo Di Canio prison camp.
But there can be a happy medium.
Think back to when Roy Keane left three players behind for not being on time for the team bus. Poyet implemented that importance on time-keeping at Brighton and has already done similar at Sunderland.
It’s needed at all levels of the club too. The problem of young professionals failing to make the grade when they get a few quid in their pockets after they had been promising teenagers, is one which is rife throughout football.
Regardless of which division Sunderland are in next season, Poyet will have the chance to remould things more to his tastes, with eight players out of contract, five on loan, plus several high-earners likely to move on, particularly if the Black Cats are in the Championship.
The Sunderland boss realises he will be lucky to have double figures of first-teamers at his disposal.
But that brings its own problems.
While 13 can depart straight away, shifting players on big bucks is not so straightforward. It may take several weeks or months, delaying the moves for their potential replacements.
Poyet will also need suitable financial support from Ellis Short to completely rebuild the squad from scratch.
While money is far tighter in the Championship, wages are more restricted and funds for transfer fees are limited, building a side for a promotion charge cannot be done on peanuts.
On the quiet, already-promoted Leicester City have invested a small fortune to return to the Premier League in the four years since the club was taken over by Thai owners.
Poyet requires a show of faith from Short too to put his ideas for reform into action.
Despite supporters understandably speculating on what Poyet would like to alter in this root-and-branch reform he has hinted at, the Uruguayan is not necessarily looking to make seismic waves.
It’s more little things that add up.
Poyet needs the licence from Short and greater interaction with the Sunderland chairman to do those things though.
There will be new ways of working that the club need to embrace.
If Poyet hits a brick wall of opposition to those changes, that is where his future may become uncertain.
The level and breadth of Poyet’s input is also an issue.
As on Saturday, he referred to his job title only being that of head coach yesterday, rather than manager.
When asked whether he would prefer to be Sunderland’s ‘manager’, he replied: “I don’t know. I think I’ve got the character to do it and the will to do it.”
Again, it would require a show of faith from Sunderland’s hierarchy to change Poyet’s job description.
He clearly believes there are implications behind only being known as ‘head coach’.
These are proposed changes designed to alter Sunderland’s course over the long-term.
They’ve tried the quick fixes with a conveyor belt of managers. They’ve not worked.
The next few months should provide an insight into how much faith Sunderland’s hiearchy have in Poyet.
With only a year remaining on his contract, they could quite feasibly decide to head down another direction and protect the status quo.
But it’s understood Poyet wants to see a commitment to change and a plan to implement it.
That is what his very public posturing is geared towards.
He could have taken the easy way out and produced those familiar sound-bites about “battling on” and “bouncing back”.
But that would never address this constant cycle of promotion, struggle and relegation.
Maybe Poyet is not the right man for the job. His team selections, tactics and January buys have certainly created question marks.
Yet surely, it is time Sunderland opened their eyes and tried something new.