Sunderland V Southampton at Stadium of Light : Match Preview
Sunderland V Southampton - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Poyet doing things his way
Gus Poyet insists there is no right or wrong way to turn around a struggling team as he continues his quest to drag Sunderland out of relegation trouble.
The 46-year-old Uruguayan has eased the Black Cats back from the brink of despair to within a single point of safety during his time on Wearside to date, and while there is much work still to be done, optimism is rising ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Southampton at the Stadium of Light.
It is all in stark contrast to the situation Poyet inherited from predecessor Paolo Di Canio in October last year, with defender Phil Bardsley this week admitting team spirit within the camp was "beyond dead" under the controversial Italian.
However, the current manager was in no mood for point-scoring as he assessed his contribution to date and what lies ahead.
Poyet said: "I was not here six months ago, so I can't comment on how it was six months ago.
"But I understand as a normal person that when a team is not winning, there is a mental side that you need to work on, and the way we are, the way we treat the players, I knew that sooner or later, the atmosphere would be different.
"It doesn't mean that you are going to win football games, but it's the way we are.
"Again, I am not comparing with anyone because there are so many styles of football, so many different ways of coaching and dealing with players, and no-one is more right than any other in saying that is the way to win games.
"I believe in my way."
Bardsley is in many ways emblematic of the recovery Poyet has engendered.
Discarded by Di Canio after being pictured at a casino and then posting an ill-advised tweet, he was restored to the fold by the newcomer and has not looked back since.
Poyet said: "I can only be thankful to Phil because he took his chance.
"It was a difficult decision for everybody - for me, but especially for him - and then it was up to him to take it, so all the credit needs to go to Phil.
"He has been on the pitch knowing that everybody was looking at him and saying, 'don't make another mistake, or we are going to be on top of you'. He has been excellent, one of the key parts of the team for what we have been doing."
Poyet's men go into the game with a relatively clean bill of health, but with striker Ji Dong-won having left the club for German side Augsburg.
Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has undergone shoulder surgery and will begin his rehabilitation next week, while defender Carlos Cuellar is around 10 days away
from a return after a long-term hip injury.
Mauricio Pochettino will focus on driving a nucleus of recent absentees back to full form and fitness while uncertainty surrounds Southampton's transfer policy and protocol.
Pochettino leads Southampton into action at Sunderland, a year on from taking the St Mary's helm.
Mentor and boss Nicola Cortese's resignation on Wednesday night could well see manager Pochettino leave Southampton in the summer. The former Espanyol boss has pledged himself to Saints until the end of the season, but offered no further assurances.
Owner and now interim non-executive chairman Katharina Liebherr has vowed to recruit a chief executive to replace the 45-year-old Cortese.
Meanwhile, Southampton's limbo leaves a host of top talents vulnerable to poaching from Premier League rivals.
Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are circling defender Luke Shaw, with West Ham targeting England striker Rickie Lambert.
Pochettino is unsure who currently handles Saints' transfer business, but said he will focus his attention elsewhere.
"We've got to concentrate on the group of players we can bring back to fitness and assimilate back into the squad and the team," he said.
"Artur Boruc and Guly Do Prado are still coming back from injuries and we need to make sure Victor Wanyama can do the same quickly."
Full-back Calum Chambers should be available for the Sunderland trip after illness, with striker Dani Osvaldo still missing as he completes his three-match ban for violent conduct in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle in December.
Pochettino has been at pains to reassure his squad about the future, at least short-term, and is battling for calm ahead of the Wearside clash.
Press Association Sport understands there is still widespread unrest among the Southampton squad, with players keen for further answers from the ownership.
Pochettino will press for more information from Liebherr in the next fortnight, but said there is no opportunity before Saturday's lunchtime Sunderland fixture.
"It is only natural that everyone would be reacting to all this," he said.
"It is hard to predict what the effect on the players will be.
"It's clear that it may affect the players as they all have varying degrees of relationship with Nicola Cortese, and of course his leaving may affect us in some way.
"In those situations it's clear that maybe some minds will be focused on what happened on Wednesday, rather than on Sunderland on Saturday. But we have to be professional.
"We have to be fully focused on the game on Saturday and, as always, try to get a positive result."
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