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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Meet The Manager: Gus Poyet

With the Brighton manager being a bit of a Premier League legend, I decided it was only right to have a chat with the big man about his career in the game after the Crawley v Brighton draw... ladies and gents, Gus Poyet!

WL: Gus, thanks for joining me! Growing up, was being a footballer always the plan for you?

GP: Well, Uruguay, my country, it's all about football to be honest! The other big sport it Basketball but as a kid, all you want to do is to play football. In those times, we were able to play football in the streets which is something that you really can no longer do these days! So, yeah, I was going to school and playing football most of the day!

WL: All that football paid off as your career really kicked off at Real Zaragoza. How was the La Liga experience?

GP: It was important to me because any South American wants to play in Europe. I had seven years in a very decent team and we won quite a few trophies. My time at Zaragoza gave me the chance to come to England.

IN SITU: I chat to Gus
WL: Yeah, and at Zara, you won both the Copa del Rey and The Cup Winners Cup, a great achievement for one of the so called "smaller clubs"?

GP: Yes. Especially the Cup Winners Cup. I think the Copa del Rey, it was, for the club, a "you've got a chance to win it" competition. The Cup Winners Cup was unique - It was not expected, the celebrations were magnificent and it was very, very nice to be a part of it!

WL: After seven years in Spain, you moved to Chelsea. Was playing in England always something you wanted to do?

GP: Not really, no! It was a surprise to me that Chelsea were interested! I was a free and for me, it was a big decision because I was 29 with two kids. I had to start again from zero, learn a new language. It was a tough decision to make the move but as you can imagine, it was the right decision!

Gus during his Chelsea days
WL: And at Stamford Bridge, you continued the fine cup success in your career by winning both the FA Cup and the Super Cup, where do these rank in your career highlights?

GP: The FA Cup, for me, was unique. It was a special place and we (Chelsea) were lucky enough to be the last winners at the old Wembley Stadium. It was fantastic for us and a great experience. We had a fantastic team and every year, we seemed to be winning trophies which brings people together.

WL: Four years after joining Chelsea, you moved to Spurs, was it a tough decision to leave the Blues?

GP: Well, I had a bit of an issue with (Claudio) Ranieri. He was not the type of manager that I would have done well with and I had to make that decision in terms of keeping myself playing in the game. I made a very good friend there in (Mauricio) Taricco, who's now my assistant at Brighton and I made the decision to move. At the time, I thought it was a normal move and then I realised there was a big rivalry between the two clubs! I wasn't trying to upset people at Chelsea and there was never a time when I was trying to go up against them - It was just a career decision.

Gus celebrates scoring another goal from midfield!
WL: You've gained a reputation as a goalscoring midfielder, what was the secret to coming in and banging in those goals from your position?

GP: Timing! Timing and the ability to be a player who was always concentrating on the game for 90...95 minutes. Always concentrating on the game, always reading the game and always paying attention for the whole game.

WL: Onto your international career now and with Uruguay, you won the Copa America, beating the likes of Brazil and Argentina, that must have been a pleasing moment!?

GP: (Intense grinning!)Yes! ... I didn't really play a lot for Uruguay. I had the chance to play in the Copa America for your country and, as you can imagine, to make your whole country so happy, it's really special. For me, it was probably one of the best... no, the best achievements that I made during my career.

Gus (L) in Uruguay colours
WL: And you soon went into coaching, joining up with your old friend Dennis Wise as an assistant at both Swindon and Leeds, did that whet your appetite to go into management?

GP: Well, I learned a lot from my time (as assistant). I saw everything from the reaction of the players from the inside. After that, slowly, slowly, going through Juande Ramos at Spurs, then I decided to become a manager. I thought it would be a great experience to become a manager after that.

WISE GUYS: Gus (R) knew Dennis (L) from Chelsea
WL: So your grateful to Brighton for giving you that chance?

GP: Yeah... well, yeah, it was a big risk for them to be honest. But at the end of the day, it worked out very well for the Chairman as well! I'm pleased I made the decision to drop down as well because I wanted my chance to manage in the Championship but I couldn't get a job and I had to make the decision to drop down to League 1... In the end, it worked out fine!

WL: Of course, two seasons ago, you won promotion to the Championship with Brighton and with it, moved into a plush new stadium to boot... the perfect season in your view?

GP: Yeah it was. It was perfection. We needed to get out (of League 1) and it was a dream to win the league. The way we did it as well, was something very special too!

WL: Off the pitch, you've got your son Diego, have you made any moves to try and bring him to the Amex?!

GP: No, no, no! No chance. It would be difficult for me to manage him! What we will do is to make sure that we leave him in there (Charlton Athletic's Academy) and wait and see what happens!

WL: He currently plays for England under 16s, would you like to see him pull on the sky blue of Uruguay?

GP: I have no preference. It's Diego's choice, it's his decision and it's not an issue.

WL: Finally, you're at Brighton at the moment, is the aim the Premier League and would you like to manage Uruguay some time in the future?

GP: Yeah (on Uruguay). It's a long time off yet though. I need to get to the top first. You cannot go from a Division 1 team and then go straight into a national job. I'll need to get to the top and then, probably, you will be given the chance!

WL: Muchos Gracias Gustavo!

GP: De nada!

Me and Gus
Many thanks to Gus for speaking to me!

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