So the Gus Poyet saga is heading towards over. No news yet on the appeal to his sacking but the club have moved on and appointed a new man to a new role. Welcome to Brighton and Hove Albion, The Amex and, most importantly Casa Don Carlos, Oscar Garcia Junyent. Head coach. *winks*
The manner of Poyet’s sacking (and indeed his suspension) has been the subject of much talk on Twitter and Facebook, in pubs and workplaces and on North Stand Chat (a place I normally leave for the close season). Fans have appeared to be divided in to Club and Poyet camps much as you appear to have to choose between Labour and Tory or Simon Cowell and humanity. In reality I’m not sure the camps are that straight forward.
For me Poyet’s position became untenable the second he speculated about ‘hitting the roof’ after the Palace defeat. I’m not saying I know that’s why he was suspended because no one outside the proceedings knows that, but saying ‘can I have a shitload more cash please boss’ when you’ve just capitulated at home to your biggest rivals is never going to go down well. That doesn’t mean I’m not appreciative of everything he did while he was here (something I’ll come back to a bit later).
Equally, no matter what they say, in my opinion the club scored a PR own goal as spectacular as the one by Colin Hawkins at Withdean with the manner in which they announced Poyet’s sacking. Allowing him to go on TV and claim he had found out about his sacking live on air, whatever the reality, looked bad to fans of other clubs and the public at large. The placing of the statement simply could not have been more badly timed. This does not mean I am anti club, anti Paul Barber or stirring up heated revolution against the legend that is Tony Bloom. Simply that I have found some of the goings on at the club frustrating and puzzling. If that’s how I see it as a fan what must the players have been thinking?
The club have come back strongly this week with the appointment of Oscar. Unlike the hoards of experts on NSC who somehow managed to make time to watch every Maccabi Tel Aviv game last season as well as ours, I don’t actually know anything about him beyond a paper coaching record and a vague memory of someone swarthy turning out for Barcelona on nights when there was no game on featuring an Englsih team. However it’s that Barca pedigree that excites me. The team under Poyet were staffed and set up to play a particular way and it needed a particular type of boss to be appointed to take us forward. It increasingly looks like we are adopting the Swansea model, something that excites and pleases me in equal measure.
Besides, as unknown as Oscar may be in England, he represents the polar opposite of the gravy train of failed mediocrity that is the rest of the English managerial merry go round. Some of the other names touted were just ridiculous. Harry “£12 million on Christopher Samba” Redknapp with his huge Sandbanks residence to maintain? No thanks. Glenn “it’s the disabled’s own fault” Hoddle with his failure academy and failed tenure at Wolves? Not on your nelly. Colin Wanker? As out moded as my mum’s prawn cocktail recipe. *makes Family Fortunes big yellow cross noise*
No Oscar is a spectacular gamble from a spectacular gambler but I’d rather we were going large (and modern) with a high risk strategy than trying not to lose our stake by constantly folding. In Tony and Oscar we trust.
That doesn’t mean I want to rewrite Poyet’s history. In my less than humble opinion he’s the best manager we’ve had since Mullery. A dispassionate look at statistics and names backs this up. Whereas Mickey Adams’s first signing as manager second time round was the aforementioned Colin Hawkins, Poyet brought flair and a trophy to the grim surroundings of Withdean. Far before we had the Amex we had Elliot Bennet and Liam Bridcutt, exciting young players far too good for that league. Poyet turned Kazenga Lua Lua from a sprinter and gymnast with a brain the size of a pea in to a footballer with a brain the size of a pea. He kept us up in his first season and then set about building a side that was part football team, part philosophy and all ego. Poyet’s ego.
Ultimately that might be what led to the unfortunate events of the last month and a bit but we should not forget that we improved our league position in every season under Gus just as he’d promised. That fans used to watching the aforementioned Hawkins, for whom Gary Hart was a hero because he was “a trier” have suddenly been treated to Wayne Bridge, Tomasz Kuszczak, Matthew Upson and Vicente, internationals all as well as Greer, Bridcutt and CMS earning international call ups (*whispers* but only for Scotland). Winning League 1 while winning all 8 games in March, the St Patrick’s Day massacre of Palace, our first shot at the top flight via the playoffs since 1991, the 6-1 demolition of Blackpool and the spectacular, breathtaking opening competitive win at the Amex over Doncaster were all achieved while aboard the Gus Bus. Now, however it is being overtaken by the Os-car. Let’s hope it’s a joyride.