He has spent recent months fighting allegations of gross misconduct levelled by the club he guided from the League One relegation zone to the brink of the Premier League inside four seasons, but preserving Sunderland's place in the Premier League is the biggest challenge to confront Gus Poyet. "Just because it is difficult doesn't mean it is impossible," the club's new head coach said on Tuesday . It is an outlook that has rarely failed the 45-year-old from Montevideo.
Poyet's in-tray at the Stadium of Light is foreboding and the two-year contract he signed on Tuesday does little to strengthen the conviction that a new era of stability is finally being ushered in under the owner Ellis Short. They are bottom of the league with one draw and six defeats from seven matches, have 14 new signings of limited Premier League experience and yet to be integrated into the team or the area, a leading striker in Steven Fletcher possibly sidelined until December and a squad now adjusting to a sixth permanent manager in five years. And No6, like Paolo Di Canio before him, has to convince players that a lack of top-flight managerial experience should not undermine his credentials.
"It's a big challenge," said Poyet at his introduction at Sunderland's Academy of Light. "In terms of coaching and managing this is the biggest challenge and I like it. Just because it is difficult, doesn't mean it is impossible. I know it is a big challenge. If I'm here it's because I believe it is possible to do well. I am confident, very confident, but I am a very positive person. But I have to make sure the ones who are confident are the players. I need to convince them of the way I am expecting to win games. They need to be convinced that it's possible. That's the biggest challenge for me, to convince the players it is possible as quickly as possible."
Poyet is adamant his playing philosophy will be embraced by players brought to the club by the director of football Roberto De Fanti, who recommended the Uruguayan for the job when Sunderland parted company with Martin O'Neill last season, but then failed to adapt to Di Canio's unconventional methods.
His confidence stems from own experiences as a player in Uruguay, Spain and England, a background that helped Poyet land the job ahead of the interim manager Kevin Ball, who he appears keen to keep on board, and was reflected in his decision to wait for the Premier League to call following his controversial exit from Brighton.
"It's a great challenge but it is not a risk," he added. "If you think I am scared about the position we are in, then you don't know me. I had phone calls from abroad. I wanted to stay in England until January at least. I had a feeling that if something came up in the Premier League then I would have an opportunity and I have. Now it is up to me to prove the chairman right. I like England, I love it, it changed my life.
"In 1997 I made a big decision. I was 29 and had my family in Spain with me. Everything was perfect and then they came in for me from Chelsea and I said: 'Why not?' It was big decision, a massive decision, a life decision. This isn't as big. This is a challenge. That one was a family decision. Now I have one kid playing for England [his son, Diego, has represented the Under-16s] and one watching cricket on TV. I know how difficult it is to settle. I need to make sure I help the players a lot. I think it is very important we pay attention to them and their families. You can't imagine how important it is to do that."
Accepting the risk, you suspect, will help Poyet deal with his acrimonious split from Brighton. A three-and-a-half year rise to the Championship play-offs ended in the sack in June for an unspecified charge of gross misconduct.
Poyet, who has threatened legal action over the allegation, said: "Brighton was painful in the last few months. It is difficult to explain. This is good because it is time to move forward. My idea is to forget about it. I need to forget about it and I have been pleading with everyone to forget about it. It's good for me to start to talk about Sunderland now, it's gone."