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Sunderland boss Poyet focused on making life difficult for Spurs
FIVE years after losing his job at Tottenham, Gus Poyet will attempt to pile the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas today by giving Sunderland a much-needed boost in the battle to avoid the drop.
Spurs fans and, it seems, figures inside the boardroom are questioning Villas-Boas’ refusal to play with two strikers and the style of his team’s play this season.
Despite Sunderland’s precarious position at the foot of the Premier League table, they have only scored two fewer than sixth-placed Tottenham’s 13-goal tally.
A defeat this evening for Tottenham, who spent big in the summer in a bid to cope with the departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, could increase the chances of the Portuguese leaving his post.
And Sunderland head coach Poyet knows exactly how it feels to be fired by Tottenham – even though he expected and accepted it.
He said: “It was totally deserved. We had two points from eight games, so what was I going to ask for?
“Even if I was a coach and I wasn't making decisions, if you're not realistic and accept it then you're trying too hard to go against the system.
“Of course I wanted more time as a coach and the manager would be the same as a manager but in football sometimes you don't get that time. It's a feeling.
“They call you in to sack you and it's not nice. You want to hide for a while, I didn't like it, it felt like I'd done something really bad and it's that feeling, I didn't like it, didn't enjoy it but it was deserved so what can you say?”
Poyet, a former White Hart Lane favourite, was the assistant to Juande Ramos during his short time in charge. The pair guided Tottenham to their worst start to a season in the club’s history, failing to win any of their opening eight games to the 2008-09 campaign.
Harry Redknapp took over and transformed the fortunes of Tottenham. Poyet still holds happy memories.
He said: “When I was at Spurs as a coach in the first three or four months we won the cup at Wembley and it was incredible. Then came the consequences of winning the cup, changing the team and getting the sack, which wasn't nice.
“I've got no bad feelings towards Spurs, they were outstanding with me always as a player and a coach, I had a great time there. When I couldn't win anything as a player there but I won as a coach for all the Spurs fans so I don't have an issue with the club or the fans. On Saturday, 5.30pm, there is no relationship, it's three points, it's life.”
Rather than focus on Villas-Boas’ difficult situation, Poyet would rather discuss keeping Sunderland in the Premier League.
The midweek defeat to Chelsea has left Sunderland with a five-point gap just to pull level with fourth from bottom, West Ham.
He has been encouraged by aspects of his team’s play, but also realises that improvements need to be made if top-flight survival is going to be achieved by May.
Poyet said: "I need to find a balance. We need to defend well but at the same time to score goals. Sometimes there are games in a normal situation when a draw is good enough and we'd take it for whatever reasons.
“At Aston VIlla we needed to be clever and we got the result, but maybe we could have gone and got three points but we got one. If you get another point here and there you're still collecting points so there's a moment that even if I don't like it, I'd take 4-3 the other way.
"We need to win, so there could be a moment in the game where we're drawing and we're playing well, now it's not like let's keep it at that and take a point. No, we need to take a risk and go and win it. Sometimes that will make you lose, but I prefer to win one and lose one than get two draws.”
After facing Tottenham, Sunderland have a good run of fixtures where supporters would expect to be able to take points through until facing Manchester City on February 12.
But Poyet, whose only wins have come against Newcastle and Manchester City in the league, said: "If we do well against the lower teams we've got coming up after Spurs we've got a great chance.
“We need to win our next 11 games to give ourselves a chance. You know how nice it is to be in a position where it's up to you, but if you want to be safe then we need to beat those teams at home.
“It's not negotiable. It's not like a wish list of getting a point here and a point there. We've got a chance if we do that and those games will be incredible, we need to win and win, nothing else.”
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