Poyet looks back on difficult times at Leeds

Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet.
Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet.

WHEN LEEDS United last visited the Stadium of Light, an irate Gus Poyet faced the ignominy of being sent to the stands.

Just over eight years ago, Roy Keane’s Sunderland triumphed 2-0 in a Boxing Day clash against a struggling Leeds side, when frustration got the better of Poyet.

The then Leeds assistant manager deliberately threw a second ball onto the pitch when the game was in-play to protest at referee Graham Salisbury, and then promptly headed down the tunnel before the official had the opportunity to send him off.

That incident came during a dark time for the Elland Road outfit, who were engulfed in the Championship relegation zone and faced the prospect of going into administration at the end of the campaign.

Both of those possibilities ultimately materialised for Leeds, who began the League One campaign the following season with a minus 15 points penalty.

Looking back on the incident now, Sunderland head coach Poyet believes it was the culmination of those on and off-the-field problems which led to his dismissal.

“I felt it was something really unfair during that game and I did something which I shouldn’t have done,” said Poyet.

“I didn’t know what to do, so I just left the pitch. It was the only time I got sent off before being sent off! It was a very difficult year that first year at Leeds.

“We were desperate. We knew administration would probably come, we were not good enough, didn’t want to go down, so any little decision against us was massive.”

Poyet was only present for the first three months of Leeds’ stay in the third tier, before leaving manager Dennis Wise’s side to become assistant to Juande Ramos at his former club Spurs.

But while Leeds would eventually climb out of League One into the Championship, they have been unable to complete their journey back to the Premier League, with the reverberations of the boom-and-bust era at Elland Road still being felt.

“My year there was fantastic,” said Poyet.

“I’ve got a fantastic relationship with the fans. It’s sad because I think they’ve got everything to be in the Premier League.

“But they’ve paid the price for two or three incredible years at the highest level.

“It was well-done, achievable, but as soon as they went down, there was so much money spent that to recover from that, you never know if you need five, 10, 15 or 20 years.

“They’re still paying the price for all the enjoyment of that Champions League moment.

“As soon as you get to the Championship, if you are not really well-organised and don’t have the right players to play in that division, or the financial situation controlled, you pay another price and go into administration and go into League One.

“They are on the way back, but it is taking a bit longer than I would have expected.”

As in Poyet’s time at Leeds, instability continues to plague the Yorkshire club.

Owner Massimo Celino, who faces an appeal later this month over the Football League’s decision to disqualify him from owning Leeds, has already sacked two managers this season, with speculation earlier this week over the future of current boss Neil Redfearn.

“It’s difficult to make an opinion from outside, but it’s not easy when you’re always restarting,” added Poyet.

“Sometimes here it’s difficult not to keep restarting and bringing in five or six players! So you can imagine if you keep changing managers.”