Football - Poyet focused ahead of derby

Gus Poyet will head into his first Wear-Tyne derby insisting the task ahead of him is no bigger than he first thought.

PA Sport Report

The new Sunderland manager will attempt to replicate the achievement of predecessor Paolo Di Canio by writing himself into Black Cats history with a victory over arch-rivals Newcastle in just his second game at the helm.

Di Canio, of course, had little time to savour his taste of glory and was shown the door after just 11 more matches with the club bottom of the Barclays Premier League and in disarray.

Three defeats since - two of them under interim boss Kevin Ball - have seen Sunderland's plight deepen, but even last Saturday's 4-0 battering at Swansea could not dent Poyet's belief that he can halt the slide.

Asked if events at the Liberty Stadium had revealed a greater malaise, he said: "No, not at all.

"I have got more information. It helped more because until last week, I was seeing the team bottom, but you were just coming in.

"Now you know why we are bottom even more because of what happened in the game.

"The situation is that we cannot keep analysing things and trying to blame one or the other.

"Here we are involved in this and we need to sort it out, so that's the only thing I am concentrating on."

Sunderland's 3-0 win at St James' Park in April - and Di Canio's celebratory slide across the turf on his knees - went down in Wearside folklore as the Italian sparked a mini-revival which ultimately saw the club retain its top-flight status, if only just.

This time around, their need is even more pressing with eight league games to date having yielded just a single point and the gap to safety currently amounting to seven.

The latest fixture may represent Poyet's first experience of a north-east derby, but the former Chelsea, Tottenham and Uruguay midfielder knows all about knows all about the battle for local pride from his playing days.

In particular, he remembers the white heat of former Spurs team-mate Sol Campbell's return to white Hart Lane with Arsenal in November 2001 in which he scored a priceless last-gasp equaliser, and his country's dramatic Copa America final penalty shoot-out victory over Brazil in 1995.

Poyet said: "At club level, Sol Campbell coming back to White Hart Lane for the first time, Arsenal v Spurs at White Hart Lane. It was a really unique situation.

"Of course it's only fans, it's not cities. I know here it is not only the fans, it is the two cities, so I am going to go one bigger.

"I played a Copa America final between two countries, Brazil and Uruguay, and there is no bigger than that.

"It [the derby] is the only one I miss. I don't miss any other games apart from the big ones, and this is massive.

"It's the one that when you are outside, probably you would like to be on the pitch doing something."

Poyet's ability to influence what happens on Sunday will be limited once he has selected his team for a game which could have a huge impact on the club's season, particularly in psychological terms.

A 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light two seasons ago sent Newcastle on a run which saw them finish fifth in the Premier League, while then Black Cats boss Steve Bruce lasted just a further three months in his job.

Bruce's latest successor is under no illusions as to the importance of a clash which is anticipated with dread as much as excitement by the two sets of fans.

He said: "This is a game to win, so everything is set up to win this football game. Then we need to wait and see the result, but we are focussed completely on winning this football game."

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