Sunderland have announced that Uruguayan Gustavo Poyet will replace Italian manager Paolo Di Canio, who was fired by the northeastern Premier League club after only 6 months. A group of players went directly to chief executive, Ellis Short, after their 3-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion on Sept. 21 of this year to formally complain about the Black Cats boss, according to Bloomberg.
Poyet makes the sixth manager in five years for Sunderland – not a statistic to be particularly proud of to be sure. Poyet, who comes to this new post from Championship side Brighton, will also bring along with him his two assistant coaches, Mauricio Taricco and Charlie Oatway, according to a statement released by the club. Poyet had been at Brighton for four years, and had brought the club up from the third tier of British football, even challenging Crystal Palace for one of the last Premier League promotion spots at the end of the 2012/13 season in the semifinals of the playoffs, ultimately losing to Palace and finishing in 4th, the best result for the team in almost 30 years.
Sunderland chief executive, Ellis Short, made a comment about the hire in a statement on the team’s website:
We analyzed a wide range of candidates and believe that Gus’s track record, experience, commitment and passion make him the right man to take us forward.
Sunderalnd’s last manager certainly did not lack passion, and in fact, many would argue that his antics on the sidelines of matches tip-toed on the line of ridiculous. Poyet was dismissed from Brighton on grounds of misconduct in late June of this year, though the details of the misconduct were not released by Poyet or the club.
Poyet is stepping into a “crisis” situation at the stadium of light, to be honest. The Black Cats have managed to claw out only 1 point in their first seven matches of the Premier League season thus far, and somehow barely managed to avoid relegation to the Championship at the end of the 2012/13 season. One of the keys for Poyet’s to succeed will be his ability to learn from the mistakes of his predecessor.
Di Canio was exuberant to say the least, and to be fair, he was just as passionate about the team’s successes (though there are few to speak of in the time he was there) as he was about its shortcomings. Di Canio failed for a number of reasons, but lack of quality certainly was not at the top of the list, with names like Seb Larsson, Lee Cattermole, John O’Shea, Adam Johnson, and Jose Alitdore in the side. Sunderland were spiraling before Di Canio arrived at the club, but his biggest downfall was his inability, or unwillingness depending on who you ask, to adapt his strategies and methods to what the “state of the business” called for.
When you only win 3 out of 13 matches as a manager, there should be a red flag that pops up that says, ‘something’s not working, what do we need to do to fix it?’ Di Canio basically assumed that it was the players that could not adopt his system and condemned and criticized them for it, often publicly and abrasively – which is what many guess to be the reason that group of players complained about to Ellis Short. Adaptability is so key for success in upper management, no matter what the industry, and a part of that is recognizing that the current resources available to you may dictate a very different strategy and action plan than what you originally intended, even if it’s not necessarily the most ideal scenario in your mind. What you thought might have been a great plan, often times will turn out to be impossible to execute based on the environment, timing, or any other of a slew of variables. Successful managers and business minds will be able to recognize those situations when they come along, and a change/manipulate their strategy and way of thinking to meet the demands of their surroundings, and ultimately that is what will lead them to a solution that drives them forward and will breed success in some form or another.
Di Canio did not adapt, simply put. Not only did he not adapt, but he also broke one of the cardinal rules of developing influential relationships according to Dale Carnegie, a world-renowned managerial pioneer and philosopher: “Never criticize, complain, or condemn”. Even if they never heard him speak, if anyone watched just one of Sunderland’s Premier League matches during Di Canio’s brief tenure could see that all he did on the sideline it seemed was criticize and condemn his players in a rather violent fashion. There are many theories on how to get the most out of your players (or employees in business) – but criticizing and condemning them, especially publicly, certainly is not one of them. Carnegie taught that successful managers will “instill in them [employees] an eager want” to succeed, or in other words, make them crave success – to have a burning desire to want to accomplish their goals. In the end, helping your people achieve their objectives will not only foster powerful and meaningful relationships, but will also in turn accomplish the needs of the manager – if your people look good and do well, so too will you.
Poyet needs to forget everything that worked or did not work at Brighton, or any other team for that matter. First establish the vision he has for the club, and involve the players, coaches, and upper management in the formulation of that vision. Take a deep dive analysis into the side he has in Sunderland, and assess what the resources he has available to him. From there, he can adapt his strategies for the side to allow the natural strengths of his side to come through and pull Sunderland out of the bottom of the table.