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Gus Poyet reckons that he's not one for changing his line up for the sake of it. You could have fooled me fella! “If I could, I would have a settled side and rarely change it,” he said. “You have a squad system and you have to make full use of that but generally you would make hardly any changes going on from game to game. You would want hardly any changes because hopefully that side would be winning and therefore difficult to change. Fans might have favourites they want to play all the time but I don’t have favourites. When players play, it is because they deserve to play. It is up to them as much as it is up to me. They have to go and show why they deserve to be in the team - if they perform, they go in. We had a plan and we stuck to it at City and eventually it worked in our favour. The idea is to have a plan and believe in what you do and stay in the game, never give it up. We want to start strong and make it difficult for Chelsea but at the same time look to cause them problems at the other end. If we play like we did against Man City though, we will have a chance.”

The gaffer also reckons that Connor Wickam could play for England! He's on one today: “I think he has everything to play in England. He is strong, big and has an incredible shot with power. He likes to link. Of course, he needs to learn certain things and how we play at certain times. I didn’t want him to be taking long throws, because he should be heading it. Now he isn’t taking throws. He gave up something to do something for the team and that is learning and adapting. I think he has plenty of qualities. Sometimes this team and previous teams in the last few years didn’t use his qualities in a certain way. Maybe it was just a pressure of performing because you are the youngest one and the others had bigger names. Maybe he needed that run in the team others had but he never had. In the situation we are in he can take advantage for himself because he is playing week in, week out. That’s the best thing that can happen for Connor. The more he plays and the more he performs the better chance we’ll have. The most important thing is for him to score, because he will be totally different in the next few games. My challenge is to keep him in that state of mind. Focused. Not ‘I’ve scored two goals. I can relax’. It depends on the time you get as a coach or as a manager with a young player. If you go out and buy a young player for £8 million, how long do you have to make him the player that you want? Or does he need to perform tomorrow? The biggest improvement I have seen in a player in the Premier League is Cristiano Ronaldo. When he arrived at Manchester he was just a tricky player doing oversteps. Two years later he was the best in the world. Why? Because Manchester United took him in a certain way. They had time to let him grow up slowly and make him a football player with the right mentality. Maybe at other clubs when you spend £8 million on a player you want to see something straight away. Players can have potential but sometimes you don’t get the time to work with them. Maybe the time is now, maybe he needed to go through that spell for him to stand up and maybe we needed to be in this situation for him to play week in week out.”

In other news, SAFC youngster Alex Gorrin has joined New Zealand outfit Wellington Phoenix. Kevin Ball explained the Spaniard's departure: “Alex has signed as Wellington Phoneix’s marquee player for two years. We’re releasing him quite early; he could still play Under-21 football next season. He’s a great lad. He drives you nuts because he always wants to play football. He came to this country at 16, couldn’t speak a word of English, and now he talks like a Mackem! For me, it’s quite a hard moment to see him getting released without getting that opportunity, but that’s the way it is. Now he’s going off to New Zealand, and you hope in two years time, someone is bidding to bring him back to England. If that’s the case, do I think we missed out? No, I just think that was his destiny."

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happy easter…
tough trip to the bridge

Well we have a very tough game at Chelsea this weekend, but Gus Poyet is hoping that his players can emulate the form they produced against Man City on Wednesday and come away with a result. Poyet said: “We came through the City game so well and got incredibly close to taking all three points. Conceding a goal so early in the game was a test for us – it was a moment to reflect upon the reactions of our players afterwards – but the way they reacted was great. I’m sure if I had been commentating on the game and saw Sunderland concede a goal after two minutes, I would have expected four, five or six – but I would have been wrong. At half-time, we were all asking how are we not winning this game? And that was pleasing because you are bottom-of-the-table Sunderland up against title-chasing Manchester City at the Etihad and you are 1-0 down, but the players are angry not to be winning because we didn’t make the most of the best three chances we’ve created in weeks! I don’t know if it is too little too late,” he said. “But I’m going to try. I think we have to win at least three games and hope for other results to go our way. But we can only look to the next game. We played an excellent game against Manchester City and almost got the win, so let’s try to put in another good effort against Chelsea. Why can’t we do well again? I think the players have taken great heart from our last two performances. For me? I want to see the team play. You can lose there – teams go there and lose five or six-nil – as they do at Man City. But we did not lose at City. And I remember, people said at the cup final that it would be nice for Sunderland to go there and not concede too many goals, but instead we went out and took the lead and were only beaten by two wonder goals. We are a team that believes in what we do and when it comes together on the pitch and everyone connects, we are a decent team. I know our league position doesn’t suggest that, but, on our day, we can be.”

Meanwhile, Under 21s boss Kevin Ball has challenged Liam Agnew and Martin Smith to use their inclusion in the first team squad at Man City as an incentive to push on in their fledgling careers. Ball said: “I spoke to both of them after the game and you could tell they were both absolutely buzzing, which is great. I told them to bottle that feeling, put it in your back pocket and if you want it again, work your socks off. It’s the best feeling in the world. Now the challenge is for them to go on and make their debuts. From our point of view, getting players into the first-team squad - whether training or playing - is the ultimate aim. We all understand that the under-21s develops into the first-team and that’s what we want. There’s other players out on loan, who were disappointed they missed out because they thought if they’d have been here, they might have had a chance and you understand that. But ultimately Aggers and Smithy were here and those were the ones the manager chose to step up. They’ve experienced sitting on the bench. Good on them.”

In other news, Marcos Alonso reckons if we can cut out the errors then we wouldn't be so shit. “We were very unlucky with Man City’s last goal. We absolutely deserved the win. But we just have to keep fighting and get focused for tomorrow and the game against Chelsea. We’ve deserved more from the last two games for sure. Everton only had a couple of chances, but we went home with zero points. And at Man City, again we deserved more. But we just need to concentrate on the small details which can change the game one way or the other. We can’t blame Vito Mannone for City’s second goal, though. It was just one of those unlucky things. He was down in the dressing room afterwards after missing out on those two points. We knew how important it was for us. But the game is gone now. We just need to back him now. We’ve got to go game-by-game. We’ve got one more game than the rest of the teams, which is important. We’ve got five games left and we have to do our best. And we’ve shown during the whole season that against the big teams we perform well. We just need to keep doing that, and even more so at Chelsea.”

In other news, Gus Poyet has been talking up Connor Wickham ahead of the trip to Chelsea and sympathising with Vito Mannone. “I’m pleased for Connor in how well he did against City and pleased for myself too. I think it’s important he realises what he can achieve. I think if we play the system we played against City and it suits him and he takes confidence from it then he can benefit from it. For him to progress I think needs a couple of things to happen, I think it’s a combination. I think first we have to make sure we give him the delivery and second that he has to believe in what he does. We need Connor to decide that from now on he is going to be a Premier League standard player and produce consistently. Vito, on the other hand, was naturally very down and like any of us who have a disappointment in football, it takes a day or two to get over it. But I said to him what I often say to the players, which is that we are a football team, a group of players working together, and when we celebrate, we celebrate together because we have all achieved something. Vito was fantastic saving the penalties in the Capital One Cup semi-final at Old Trafford but when we won it wasn’t only because of him it was because of the team. And when we didn’t win against Man City, yes Vito was down that he didn’t save their equaliser, but he made other saves and we had other chances to score in the game - so it’s all about the team. As a team we must try to support and help each other. It was a moment in the game like so many other moments this season that have just gone against us but we have to move on quickly.”

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more post Man City craic…
REACTION

Gus Poyet was delighted with the fight that his players showed against Man City, even if it is a little late to save our season. Shame we didn't play like that against Palace and Norwich. “It was an excellent performance by us against City. It’s the sort of performance which is going to give us that word that I absolutely hate – which is ‘confidence’. I don’t like using that word that, but it is true: given as well as we played against City, it will give us a bit of hope against Chelsea this weekend. I think now the players will believe they might get something. We need to believe it is possible. Playing like we did against City – going forward, passing the ball, heading the ball – we have hope, when we play like that. We played a great game – we deserved something for the game. I thought for a few minutes we were getting the three. We didn’t. But you need to realise where we are. I think everyone was expecting us to concede five or six on the night. But we didn’t because we don’t give up or give in – because the players appreciate what they need to do for the fans.”

Meanwhile, two goal Connor Wickham reckons his loan spells in the Championship have helped his develop as a player. Wickham said: “It wasn’t easy playing in the Premier League at 17. But I’ve never felt pressured to do what I do. I didn’t plan to go out on loan, but it happened. I’ve played a lot of football since going away. That can only help me and benefit me. I came to play Premier League football, but I went away, got match-fit, scored a few goals and I’ve played against three of the top five since coming back. I didn’t ask to come back, the manager called me, so, for me, it was a positive and I had something to prove. Hopefully this is the start of something new. I hope I’ve showed what I can do and stood out. It was one of the best games I’ve played in a Sunderland shirt. It’s all about confidence – just ask any player. Going 1-0 down in the first two minutes was not ideal and people maybe thought ‘here they go, they’re going to get a few more. But, no, we picked ourselves up. We got back in the game and went 2-1 ahead, which not many teams will do there. It was mixed emotions afterwards; disappointment, to be honest. To be 2-1 up after being 1-0 down and to score twice in 10 minutes to turn the game on its head, and then we’ve conceded a disappointing goal with the ball just trickling in. It was hard to watch. We can take positives because we were strong and the team showed what we can do. We’ve come against a top team, didn’t get off to a great start, but we need to keep performing like that.”

Elsewhere, Poyet reckons that if Wickham can continue the form he has shown in the last two games, he'll be first choice striker: “When I got to the club there were five or six strikers. And it was impossible to play them all. I had to make decisions. Connor was young, so I let him go out on loan and he did well so we brought him back. But if he delivers, he keeps playing – it’s that simple. If you play well, you’re in the team and I’ll find the shape to get you in the team because it’s all about performing. But the hardest part with this result is that Vito has been wonderful this season and now he feels terrible. But it doesn’t change my mind about him – what happened to him against City. He needs to recover quickly and look forward. We have to think about ourselves in these games against the top teams – we have to think about passing, creating, defending, running and tackling. We have to forget about the opposition and concentrate on ourselves. It is not easy, but we achieved that on the day against City and we have to do that in the remaining games – concentrate on what we might do right, rather than what the opposition might do right.”

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post Man City craic…
REACTION

Tragic Sunderland drew 2-2 with Man City in a game which we looked to have won thanks to a late Connor Wickham brace only for a last gasp Vito Mannone error to level the score and deprive us of a well earned 3 points. 'City opened the scoring in the second minute courtesy of a Fernandino strike but Sunderland battled hard and their resiliency looked to have paid off after Wickham tripled his Premier League tally in one game, but it was not to be. Devastating, but a very impressive performance.

Gus Poyet was understandably gutted not to get the three points, but was delighted that we didn't capitulate after going a goal down so early in the game: "I haven't had the heart attack that football is trying to give me every game! We deserved better. We conceded a goal after two minutes at Manchester City and every single person in the world expected us to lose from there. But we passed the ball and create chances. We kept believing. I think the first half we were even better than the second half, the only problem is we didn't score. At half time you need to convince the team at the bottom that we are the best team and to keep believing. The players tried their best and we were concentrating on making it difficult for them and trying to go forward and create chances.

"We had a player today in Connor that gave us something we were missing for a long, long time. A couple of goals in one game is something that will give you points. I don't want to take about individual players or actions, I think the most important thing is the belief of the players; they were calm on the ball and they wanted to show everyone we are a better team than the table shows."

Poyet refuses to give up the fight against relegation: "Survival was the challenge from the beginning and it is still possible. We will fight, there are too many rumours and too much stupidity. Too many people talking but at the end of the day I will be here. There will be some genius who says, now we drew, that they were expecting us to fight and do something incredible, but he will lie. Nobody did anything for us today, everybody wrote that we were getting demolished for whatever reason. We played and if there is one thing top teams do not like it is to defend."

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