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Don't cry for Gus: Why freed up Congerton can meet Sunderland supporter hopes

COMMENT: It may've taken longer than he'd hoped, but Gus Poyet has what he wanted: a fat pay-off and freedom from the chaos at Sunderland.

The Uruguayan's sacking was a long time coming. In fact, as soon as Lee Congerton took the job as Sunderland's sporting director, Poyet was getting itchy feet.

That was 12 months ago.

Last March, Poyet saw the goal posts moved by owner Ellis Short, with his position of manager being watered down as head coach. The constant sniping at the club's recruiting this season was just a hint of a relationship between coach and football director that sources suggest "couldn't be worse".

From the outside looking in, Poyet was pushing for the sack. He wanted out. At one stage, inside barely a week, the Uruguayan took aim at supporters, then attacked the iconic Peter Reid before lambasting (again) the fans for criticising Reidy!

If Poyet didn't want to work with a sporting director, then he should have resigned. But very few managers do that these days.

Instead, yet again, Sunderland fans were sold short. There were 45,000 at the Stadium of Light for the Aston Villa shambles. 45,000! This club should be competing for European places, not battling relegation. A culture of mediocrity, where doing just enough is good enough, has been allowed to fester too long.

On Sunday morning, the backpages were splashed with images of fans trying to get at Poyet in the home dugout. Yesterday, he was sacked. This morning, it was breaking that local police had raided both the Stadium of Light and club training ground as part of their investigation into Adam Johnson.

The place is a shambles.

On the pitch, Short's decision to dump Poyet will have a long-term positive impact. Congerton, free of his battles with Poyet, will do good things in terms of squad rebuilding. The former Hamburg chief had Toby Alderweireld lined up before his move to Southampton and Micah Richards ahead of his switch to Fiorentina. Only for both deals to be scuppered, it is alleged, by Poyet. Where would the Black Cats be with those two part of their back four?

Short can trust Congerton. The American is getting it in the neck today as he seeks a fifth manager in six years. But Short isn't a football man. He's placed his money and faith in people who have let him down. Poyet's deals for Liam Bridcutt, Will Buckley, Sebastián Coates, Ricardo Álvarez and Santiago Vergini have all flopped. Ignacio Scocco lasted six months and left for a million pound loss.

No Premier League club has experienced a greater turnover of players in the last five years than Sunderland AFC.

But the problems run deeper than the make-up of the first team squad.

Poyet's predecessor Paolo di Canio spoke last night of the club's culture. From the Johnson issue, to Conor Wickham's £17,500 Champagne bottle and even back to former player Phil Bardsley and his casino antics, nothing has changed. Di Canio revealed no fines had been given to the players for two years before his arrival.

Say what you want about Di Canio as a manager. But as a trainer, as a player committed to getting the very best from himself, he was in the Cristiano Ronaldo category. Can anyone at Sunderland, from Short down, really claim there is a pursuit of excellence inside the club?

Dick Advocaat will step in today and hope to inspire the players enough to finish fourth from bottom. That's his brief, with the former Rangers and Holland manager agreeing terms to the end of this season.

Beyond June, Real Madrid assistant coach Paul Clement, who Congerton knows from their days together at Chelsea, is among the favourites. As is West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce, a former Sunderland defender.

Big Sam looks nailed on. He's off contract in the summer, has improved West Ham since taking charge and won't tolerate disruptive influences (as he proved by dumping Ravel Morrison).

At this stage in the club's history, perhaps slow and steady is what is needed.

But if Congerton has the stomach for the fight. If he's willing to confront, head on, the troublemakers inside the club, then the arrival of Clement could fast-track Sunderland to where he and Short envision it. In tandem, Congerton and Clement would attract a better class of player and in doing so lift the standards and demands throughout the club.

For Sunderland, Congerton's motivation is one of the few positives to come out of this season. Over the past year, he knows his reputation has been harmed by Poyet's antics and his career is at a crossroads. With the right manager, willing to buy into his plans, he can give Sunderland's massive supporter base the team they deserve.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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