What do we know about Sunderland’s new boss, Gus Poyet?

Gus Poyet.
Gus Poyet.

IT took more than 130 years for Sunderland Football Club to appoint its first overseas boss, writes Graeme Anderson.

Today, the club was expected to appoint its second foreigner in under a year as the Black Cats’ new head coach.

Like Paolo Di Canio though, Gus Poyet, is a foreigner who is very familiar to the people of Wearside, having played for many years in the Premier League before going on to coach and manage in this country.

But what exactly do we know of the new man charged with saving and reviving a stricken and struggling Sunderland?

Gustavo Augusto Poyet Domínguez was born in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, 45 years ago.

He was to make his name as a supremely-gifted midfielder blessed with great skill, balance and, at 6ft 2ins, physical presence.

He also had a keen eye for goal and that talent occasionally saw him asked to play in the role of striker.

He was 20 when he made his debut for French outfit Grenoble scoring eight goals in 37 appearances before moving to River Plate in his home country and scoring 28 goals in 78 appearances.

But it was at Spanish side Real Zaragoza between 1990-97 that he was to establish his reputation, scoring 60 goals in 240 appearances, playing with passion and power and great athleticism for such a big man.

And he never lost that knack of scoring goals regularly from midfield.

As a free transfer to Chelsea, he must represent one of the best value for money signings that the Blues ever made and between 1997-2001 he scored 49 goals in 145 games as the Londoners soared towards the top of the English game.

Three of those goals came against Sunderland – including the consolation goal in the Black Cats’ famous 4-1 demolition of the Blues at the Stadium of Light in December, 1999.

And he was something of a nemesis for Sunderland – scoring against them twice more for Spurs – where he finished his career, playing from 2001-04 scoring 23 goals in 98 games.

Surprisingly, for such a gifted player, he played only 26 times for his country, scoring three goals between 1993-2000 – though he was part of the team which won the 1995 Copa America.

When he retired, at the age of 37, he had accumulated a locker full of medals – at Real Zaragoza, he won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1995; at Chelsea the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1998, the UEFA Super Cup in 1998 and the FA Cup in 2000.

After hanging up his boots he moved into coaching in 2006, serving as assistant manager to Dennis Wise at Swindon Town and Leeds United and then to Juande Ramos at Spurs.

He became a manager for the first time November, 2009, when he took over the reins at Brighton and successfully kept them up before, in his first full season, he led the club to promotion as League One Champions.

His efforts that season were recognised with the League One Manager of the Year award from the League Managers’ Association and he also won the Football League award for Outstanding Achievement.

Brighton spent the next season as early pace-setters in the Championship and were never in danger of relegation in their first season back at that level, fortified by their new Amex Stadium after years of uncertainty surrounding their eventual home.

Last season, he was to guide Brighton to the play-off semi-finals where they lost to rivals Crystal Palace and days later he was suspended before eventually being sacked.

In truth the relationship between Poyet and the club appeared to have been breaking down for a while and was not solely down to an unsavoury incident involving one of his players in the semi-final.

Poyet was said to have become disillusioned with the lack of investment in players; the club’s owners were said to feel that the South American needed reining in.

As the ashes of his dismissal were raked over, so Poyet’s reputation came under scrutiny.

And it is no surprise, given those inquests, that many Sunderland fans have wondered over the last few days whether one passionate, emotional, combustible foreigner at Sunderland is not about to be replaced by another.

Poyet did appeal the decision but did not succeed and spent his summer on the punditry circuit – openly admitting last week that he was biding his time in the hope that a job might come up with a struggling Premier League club.

No Premier League club has struggled as much as Sunderland this season, who have only one point from a possible 21 and now the Uruguayan has the opportunity he craved.

He will come into the club with the same brief as was given to Paolo Di Canio earlier this year: Save Our Season. It will be no easy task.

His first task will simply be to win games. His second, one suspects, will to prove to players and fans alike, that he is no Paolo Di Canio.