Gus Poyet: What next for Sunderland in season of struggle?

By James McMathBBC Sport
Gus Poyet: Pundits say 'no-one was surprised' on Sunderland sacking

Gus Poyet helped save Sunderland from relegation last season but, 17 months after his arrival, the Uruguayan finds himself out of work and the club are in an all-too familiar fight for survival.

The Black Cats are embroiled in another Premier League relegation battle and Poyet, 47, has paid the price.

Sunderland have also had to fight fires off the field in a season of struggle.

BBC Sport looks at what has gone wrong and considers what might come next for the Wearside club.

What a difference a year makes

Sunderland have failed to win any of their last seven matches in all competitions and have celebrated victory in only four Premier League matches this season - the joint-lowest along with bottom side Leicester.

They are 17th in the table, a point above third-bottom Burnley, and they have scored just once in their last six matches in all competitions.

The nadir came with Saturday's 4-0 capitulation against Aston Villa. Fans streamed out of the stadium long before the end of the match, while some of their number sought to confront Poyet in the dug out.

It was then that owner Ellis Short decided he had seen enough.

Yet it was not so long ago that Poyet was the toast of fans.

Sunderland celebrate victory over Manchester United in the Capital One Cup semi-final
Sunderland beat Man United on penalties in January 2014 to book their first cup final appearance since 1992

The former Brighton manager steered Sunderland to the Capital One Cup final a year ago - the club's first major final since 1992.

They were beaten 3-1 by Manchester City at Wembley but still ended the season on a stunning high by avoiding relegation - thanks largely to four wins in the final five matches.

It's also worth remembering that Poyet departs the Stadium of Light with a perfect 100% record from three matches against fierce rivals Newcastle United.

Problems off the pitch - and close to it

Sunderland's current struggles on the pitch have been compounded by issues off it.

The cracks were starting to show in December when Poyet suggested he was unhappy with with the club's transfer policy. Speaking ahead of the winter transfer window in December, Poyet suggested he would have little influence on player recruitment and that it would led by sporting director Lee Congerton.

The remarks were reminiscent of Di Canio's criticism of former director of football Roberto De Fanti.

Furthermore, Poyet is currently contesting a Football Association charge of improper conduct after being sent to the stands during the 1-1 draw with Hull City on 3 March.

Gus Poyet is sent to the stands against Hull
Gus Poyet watched from the stands as his Sunderland team fought back from a goal down to draw with Hull on 3 March

The match was played a day after Sunderland midfielder Adam Johnson was arrested on suspicion of having sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl. Poyet said it had been one of the most difficult days of his career.

Before that, Poyet wrote an open letter to Sunderland's supporters calling for unity after losing 2-0 at home to relegation-threatened QPR and exiting the FA Cup at the hands of League One Bradford City,

'You're either a god or a dog'

Former midfielder Julio Arca played for Sunderland from 2000 to 2006.

"It's hard just to blame one person because the manager is trying to pick the best 11," he said.

"Some of the players haven't been performing really well. I believe he is a good manager. He did really well last season to put the team in the Capital One Cup final and escape from the relegation battle."

Sunderland fans show support for Gus Poyet at Swansea last season
Sunderland avoided relegation by winning four of their final five matches last season

Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy managed Sunderland from 2003 to 2006.

"It was only 12 months ago that you were seeing those 'Miracles do happen, Gus' banners," he said.

"You are either loved or loathed there. You're either a god or a dog."

Paul Dobson from Sunderland fanzine 'A Love Supreme'.

"A few people had turned against him quite a while ago and I can understand that," he said.

"Given the results at QPR and Bradford, many managers would have gone after those two games. The writing was on the wall after Saturday, there was very little chance of him seeing the week out."

Four managers in six years

Poyet's reign of 524 days makes him the third-longest serving of four permanent managers appointed since American businessman Short assumed full control of Sunderland.

Steve Bruce (911 days), Martin O'Neill (983 days) days and Paolo Di Canio (267 days) have all arrived and departed since Short completed his takeover in May 2009.

Of that quartet, Poyet had the second-highest win percentage (30.67%) in all competitions, behind Martin O'Neill (31.82%). Bruce's was 29.59%, while Di Canio's was 23.08%.

Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe
England striker Jermain Defoe joined Sunderland from Toronto in a swap deal for Jozy Altidore in January

Initial success followed by a slump is a recurring theme for recent managers at the Stadium of Light. Di Canio took eight points from his first seven matches to beat the drop at the end of the 2012-13 campaign but was sacked in September of the following season amid reports of player revolt.

O'Neill lost just one of his first 13 matches in charge after arriving in December 2011 but a run of eight matches without a win preceded the Northern Irishman's sacking in March 2013.

Bruce oversaw progress over consecutive seasons, finishing 13th in 2010 and 10th in 2011, but the former Manchester United defender was dismissed in November of the 2011-12 season after Sunderland recorded two wins from their first 14 matches of the campaign.

Speaking about Poyet's dismissal, Short said: "Sadly, we have not made the progress that any of us had hoped for this season and we find ourselves battling, once again, at the wrong end of the table."

Who's on Short's shortlist?

Upon appointing Poyet, Short said the Uruguayan's "experience, commitment and passion" were the qualities that made him right to take the club forward.

Sunderland have said an announcement about Poyet's successor would be made "in due course" but former Netherlands and Rangers manager Dick Advocaat is in line to replace him.

Advocaat certainly ticks the box for experience. The 67-year-old has managed extensively at club level and has led six different nations. He left his most recent job as manager of Serbia in November 2014.

Former Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat
Former Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat managed Rangers from 1998 to 2002

Paul Bracewell is another high on many bookmakers' lists. The former midfielder had three spells as a player with the Black Cats and is currently the development coach at the Stadium of Light.

West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce and Derby County boss Steve McClaren are among the others who have been linked to the post.

Speculation surrounding Allardyce's future has intensified with the Hammers' on an eight-match winless sequence.

McClaren, meanwhile, has established Derby as promotion contenders again after reaching the Championship play-off final last season.

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