FITNESS coach Antonio Pintus has to take the credit for Sunderland’s extra-time display against Chelsea, says Gus Poyet.
Former Chelsea, West Ham and Juventus coach Pintus arrived at the Stadium of Light as part of Poyet’s backroom team after Paolo Di Canio’s entire staff followed the Italian out of the exit door.
Concerns had been expressed privately during Di Canio’s reign that while Sunderland’s players had done plenty of cardio work during pre-season, they lacked match sharpness.
But the Black Cats proved their conditioning when they dominated the extra-time period against Chelsea in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup quarter final and Poyet believes that is down to Pintus.
Poyet told SportMail: “I don’t want to look backwards (to Di Canio’s reign) I just want to praise Antonio Pintas, the fitness coach, who has been with us since the first day.
“He did plenty of tests on day one and checked what was needed for our game.
“It’s a love-hate relationship with the fitness coach.
“I used to say I hate fitness coaches, but then, if you’re on the pitch and you compete and you’re strong, you love them.
“On Wednesday morning, they will have seen Antonio was so happy that the team was so competitive (against Chelsea) because that’s the way you get praise.”
Poyet added: “He’s a great guy. He was my fitness coach at Chelsea in 1998 to 2000.
“I remember in pre-season finishing a run when you just go over the line, and looking at him and he gave a little smile.
“He enjoys seeing the players going to that limit, because that’s what you need in the game.
“It’s a great feeling for a player when he’s suffered during pre-season, but can last the 90 minutes.”
Poyet says Pintus’ fitness regime has been tailored towards the footballing philosophy which the Uruguayan has introduced at the Stadium of Light.
And with Sunderland facing a third game in a week when Norwich visit Wearside tomorrow, Pintus has been doing the bulk of the work on the training ground over the last 48 hours.
“His training is specific to my system,” said the head coach.
“He helps me so much with the controlling of the times.
“When we’re working at intensity, there is a time frame for the exercise which needs to be spot-on to maintain that level of consistency later on in games.
“That’s what he studied for and he knows when we need to go higher or drop the intensity of the sessions.
“The recovery this week has all been down to him.”