It seems safe to assume that both player and public relations formed a key part of the discussion between Ellis Short and Gus Poyet before Sunderland appointed their latest manager.

Sunderland's playing squad were so perturbed by Paolo Di Canio's archaic methods as to play the key part in his removal from office and Poyet has a predecessor for whom not even a famous 3-0 victory over Newcastle at St James' Park could secure fan favour.

Short, the club's owner, can at least point to Di Canio keeping Sunderland in the Premier League as justification for the Italian being given the job. Poyet now has the same, stiff challenge but, unlike Di Canio, he seems keen to win over hearts and minds when meeting it.

"In restaurants, the fans have been very supportive," Poyet says. "They have been like: 'Come on, please let's win a football game.'" He adopted almost a begging tone when depicting that message. "They're not asking for a lot, they're just asking for a win, which is fair enough and we should be good enough to do that.

"I'm always a fair person, we ask the fans to stick with the team in tough times and I know they will. It's up to us to give that back with a good result, a win that they can go back home and talk for a week about how good we were and how good we played. I promise we will give that support back to the fans if they stick with us through the tough times."

The former Brighton & Hove Albion manager has no intention of playing down what lies ahead. "If we win on Saturday [away to Swansea] it will probably be the best night of my life," he says.

Sunderland can expect a hands-on manager and one who offers experience of a top-level playing career. Alan Hutton, who played at Tottenham Hotspur when Poyet was a coach there, recalls the Uruguayan's style. "He was passionate and always got very involved in the training. He would take a lot of it himself," Hutton says. "He had a great attitude with the boys and we all respected him; partly because we know what a good player he had been. He used that experience without ever boasting about his own achievements."

Jody Morris, who was at Chelsea during Poyet's four years as a player at Stamford Bridge, offers a similarly warm testimony. "Gus is passionate and enthusiastic. He was a clever player but also one with a burning desire to win. He loves to play good football, a passing game but with bite."

Sunderland's squad have been handed a clean slate. Phil Bardsley, who had become ostracised and forgotten about under Di Canio to the extent the full-back's squad number was not listed in the matchday programme, has been handed a second chance. Poyet will also have the benefit, possibly on Saturday at Swansea, of a fit-again Steven Fletcher.

The striker looks like Sunderland's best hope of ending a scoring bluntness which, should it continue, would trigger relegation. They have scored only five goals in seven league games; the concession of 16 goals renders them the most generous defenders in the top flight. Wes Brown's extended absence from the back line offers a partial explanation.

In contrast to Di Canio's time at Sunderland, Poyet needs all of his players fully behind him as a prerequisite. "That's something I've said to them, we need to understand that it's not just words, we really need to be convinced in what we are doing and that it's the way we need to go to get us up the table," says the 45-year-old.

"Then we'll see where we finish and everyone will take responsibility for that in the end. Let's not start thinking about 'what if'. We can't sign players at the moment. We'll work with what we've got, we need to make sure we pull in the same direction.

"The players are up for it because there's a new manager here and every single player thinks they're going to have a chance. If one player is doing what I want and need right from the start then he's going to be in playing until the supposedly better player gets the message and starts doing the right things.

"We can't make any more mistakes in the position that we are in. I'm sorry but there's no place for mistakes at all.

"We can't make individual mistakes or mistakes as a team, there are no excuses. We can't complain, we have got a great life, so let's make sure we do our jobs properly."

When Poyet looks at Swansea, he does so with jealousy. "They're in a process where they've played the same football under different managers for the past five or six years. We're at the opposite end of the scale, we're on zero."

To be precise, and most pertinently in the here and now, Sunderland are on one point and at the foot of the table.

"I've had a few good luck messages, although I changed my phone a couple of months ago so not everyone has my number," Poyet says. "I'm not going to specify any numbers but there were plenty of names there and I was very grateful. It took me a while to answer, one by one, but I made sure I did."

Poyet's strongest message would be delivered by survival. The quest will at least begin with backing from those who matter most.