Poyet feeling strain of life in hot seat by the sea

BIRMINGHAM - An early morning meeting with the managing director, a mid-day press conference, a 90-minute train journey into London to see the chairman, and more media work.

How life has changed for ex-Chelsea favourite Gus Poyet.

The former goal-scoring midfielder, capped 23 times by Uruguay who also spent eight years with Spanish club Real Zaragoza, is now adjusting to a less glamorous side of football as manager of Brighton & Hove Albion in England's third-tier.

As an FA Cup winner with Chelsea in 2000 the club is in his blood, yet when the Blues face Aston Villa in an FA Cup semi-final in an evening kick-off on Saturday - the same opposition at the same venue of Wembley where he won his medal - he cannot be sure if he will make the game, even on TV.

"If we win the game (against Carlisle) hopefully I will be able to watch it, but if we lose then I might have to miss it as we will have some talking to do," Poyet told Reuters on his mobile phone, while on the Brighton to London line.

So far, he has won 12 of his 29 matches in charge at a club firmly routed in mid-table, losing 10 and drawing seven.

HARD-EARNED

Poyet has taken a hard-earned route into management having served Swindon, Leeds and Tottenham as assistant manager/coach.

He is pleased he had that chance to learn without being in charge. He is finding just how tough life is now he is the boss.

"I enjoy a bit of golf but since I took this job three months ago I have probably played nine holes," Poyet said.

"So my handicap is going high, high, high. I was playing off 14 but now I would probably be more like 18." Poyet, 42, is discovering at first hand that managing a football club is not all about five-a-sides and standing on the touchline on match-days.

Dealing with the finances and business aspects at the seaside club is as much his job now as finding strikers who can score.

"This is the other side of management that nobody knows," he added. "People see you on the pitch and think that's all there is to it. But I don't mind the other stuff because you can't do your job without having good relationships."

Poyet was a prolific-scoring midfielder famous for his ghost-like runs into the goal area that opposition defenders found hard to track.

He was not short of honours, winning the Copa del Ray and the Cup Winners' Cup at Zaragoza and also the Copa America with his country in 1995 when he was voted Player of the Tournament.

It was around 1998 when, in his second season at Chelsea, he knew that he wanted to enter management after his playing career.

"I started looking at the way managers did things and I took note of what I liked and what I didn't like," Poyet said.

"I couldn't pick out a manager as being the biggest influence as I learned from all of them."

As for Saturday's semi-final, Poyet gives Villa more hope than many might think after their 7-1 thrashing at Stamford Bridge in a Premier League game less than two weeks ago. England midfielder Frank Lampard netted four times.

"It's a one-off game and things are always different in a semi-final," Poyet said.

"That 7-1 was an accident, that's not normal. Villa have a good manager also but they will need to take their chances if they are to progress."

His FA Cup winners' medal came from a 1-0 victory courtesy of a goal by Roberto Di Matteo. The final was remembered for two reasons: it was the last one in front of the twin towers, pre-demolition. It was also an especially drab affair.

"It was a terrible game, probably one of the worst finals ever," Poyet acknowledged.

"Villa had a plan to stop us from playing and the game became bad as we couldn't create any chances. When we scored they came at us and the game opened up."

He added: "It was a great day. I remember the walk from the dressing room to the pitch and seeing all the Chelsea fans. And I remember celebrating with my son in the centre circle afterwards. It was a great day."

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