Poyet buoyed by Black Cats revival
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet will welcome Aston Villa to Wearside with a smile on his face after four points over Christmas dramatically improved his mood.
The 46-year-old Uruguayan freely admits he is not the best person to be around when the Black Cats are losing games, and a shock victory at high-flying Everton on Boxing Day, following by a last-gasp draw at Cardiff 48 hours later proved the perfect tonic.
Poyet's men remain at the foot of the Barclays Premier League table, but are now only two points adrift of safety, and while that may only represent a start, it is a source of contentment.
Asked if it was currently easier to come to work, he said: "Yes. I am a normal person, yes. I am a bad loser, I have said many times, so when we lose, I am not a nice person to be around.
"But it's the opposite now. I try to be realistic as well, but sometimes football is so good for me, I like it so much that you get so much involved, you forget about the rest of life, family, health and everything in the world.
"But that lasts for a day or so. After that, we recover."
Sunderland's plight remains parlous - they took just 14 points from their first 19 league games and need to improve upon that significantly over the second half of the season if they are to retain their top-flight status.
However, 13 of those points have come from Poyet's 12 games at the helm, and while that ratio will have to increase substantially, a friendlier fixture list, which sees them lock horns with Villa, Fulham and Stoke in January, gives them an opportunity.
Poyet said: "A few weeks or a few months ago, people were looking at the table and thinking it was impossible, and now we are there, so we have to make sure we don't stop and don't get complacent because we have done nothing.
"Of course, we have done something important, but in reality it's nothing because it's all about what is coming next."
Poyet launched his reign with a demoralising 4-0 defeat at Swansea on October 19, and he could have been forgiven for contemplating a repeat on his return to South Wales on Saturday when his side trailed 2-0 to Cardiff.
However, a remarkable conclusion to the game saw substitutes Steven Fletcher and Jack Colback score to snatch a draw and confirm the manager's belief that his master plan is working.
He said: "What I am seeing is that, even if we are having a bad spell during the game, we are going to have the other side of the coin and we are going to have a good spell, and if in that spell we take advantage and we score, we are going to be in a position to win games."
Central defender Wes Brown will miss out once again as he completes his three-match ban, while partner John O'Shea remains a doubt with the shoulder injury which kept him out of both games over the festive period.
Striker Fabio Borini, who was taken to hospital suffering from the after-effects of a virus during the game at Cardiff, has undergone tests to confirm there is no lasting problem and is rated at 50-50, while midfielder Adam Johnson is battling to shake off his own bout of illness.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert does not believe his side's Premier League position gives cause for negativity.
The Villans point against Swansea, earned despite the visitors dominating for large periods at Villa Park, ended a run of four-straight defeats.
Villa have won just one of their last eight Premier League fixtures, but Lambert feels their league position of 13th is not bad when put into perspective.
He said: "The top five or six will always be that as there's too much money there because there is so much emphasis on the Champions League.
"The revenue is too much and the players have x amount of millions. We're not in that position at the moment, this is a building block of players that will make a right good go at it. You have to keep building this club.
"That project will take however long (owner) Randy Lerner gives me. That's the bottom line. It's not rocket science when you look at the number of managerial changes. Nothing is certain in football.
"But we're three points from 10th. That's not a bad place to be, there's so far to go in this league, anything can happen."
Sunderland remain bottom of the table after coming from 2-0 down to earn a draw at Cardiff, but the Black Cats have closed in on the teams above them in recent weeks.