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Gus Poyet relishes the task at Brighton ahead of FA Cup clash with Aston Villa
Published : 22 Jan 2010 19:46:12
After taking the Brighton manager's job in November, the house seemed just right with the must-have sea view he craved. "But then one of my new players I don't want to put his name out got it. Yeah, nicked it from me! So now I don't have a flat," he explains animatedly down at the club's Sussex University training ground. Related ArticlesO'Neill hails Villa class of 2010FA Cup 4th round: previewsVilla players relishing semi-final successVilla play down Boyd talkMan City face one of their ownSport on televisionHe knew this managerial lark would have its problems but getting gazumped by one of your own signings... "I'm telling you, you don't know what it takes to be a manager. You deal with a hundred different things. To start, I'd get home at night so tired mentally that I put my head on the bed and immediately was gone. Quite crazy!" He beams broadly and, just as at Chelsea where they called one of the Premiership's best attacking midfielders "Radio", you can't switch him off. Poyet could still talk for Uruguay. No wonder Brighton's chairman Tony Bloom was wooed at interview. Bloom, one of Europe's top poker players, is called "the Lizard" on the circuit for his sang froid; he would have known if Poyet's hot-blooded enthusiasm was a bluff. It is no act. Watch him exhorting his League One players, he looks 42 going on 16, cajoling, gambolling and never shutting up. After Albion's tired travails since their Goldstone heyday the near-bankruptcy, the nomadic Gillingham days, the decampment to "ugly" Withdean his youthful appointment symbolises a club's refreshed ambition, just like their shiny new stadium rising round the corner in Falmer. Poyet drives past it every day on the A27, watching it grow "bigger and better" but it inspires mixed feelings. "I dream to be there but at the same time I'm thinking, 'Well, I finish my contract just a month before the opening day (August 2011) so am I going to be there or no?' We'll see." Eight Brighton managers in as many years suggests caution is not misplaced. Poyet's burgeoning reputation as a coach, after being Dennis Wise's right-hand man at Swindon and Leeds and Juande Ramos's lieutenant at Spurs, count for nothing now he's landed his first managerial post. So far, so good. He has edged Albion out of the relegation places and started re-sealing a porous defence. Now, an alluring FA Cup diversion awaits; 6,000 Seagulls swooping on Villa Park amid ancient stirrings of the fabled 1983 run to Wembley. Everyone here tells Poyet of Albion's cruel miss against Manchester United. They've even tested him on it. "But I didn't get one right". Not even the legend 'And Smith must score '. But then, Poyet has his own FA Cup memories to cherish. Against Aston Villa too, Chelsea winning the last final at the old Wembley, 2000, as his little lad Diego the younger of his two sons who's now a 14-year-old at Charlton's Academy celebrated afterwards with him on the pitch. "Terrible game but the perfect day," he smiles. Poyet is a hard man not to like, one of South America's best gifts to English football. "I always represented my country in a good, respectful way. As a person as well as a player. I've been quite a good boy, helped by my family of course. I've got a record in that I've already been married 21 years! That's an achievement! "It's true I get on well with everyone but I don't accept people who don't have respect. I give everything to the players to help them be good professionals. But if they fail me, I'm hard. And when I say I'm bad, I can be one of the worst! Even if I smile all of the time." So what about his anonymous gazumper then? "We'll see if he gets in the team," laughs Gus. Just a hunch but you can't help thinking Poyet must score.