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Full Circle with Gus Poyet and Adam Catterall

A stellar playing career saw Gus Poyet hang his boots up next to his FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup winners’ medals from his time with Chelsea, and his Copa del Rey and Cup Winners’ Cup winners’ medals with Real Zaragoza.

But taking pride of place in Poyet’s career is undoubtedly the 1995 Copa America win with Uruguay.

Sharing a border with Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay had seen its neighbours pass them by in the footballing pecking order after their 1930 and 1950 World Cup wins, but they did have 13 Copa America wins to their name.

1995, however, was rather different. The second one-legged final Uruguay had competed in after format changes, but unlike the 1987 edition, this one was in Montevideo.

“To tell you the pressure, when we left the place where we were staying, the half an hour to the stadium, the whole country was out in the street, and you were really feeling it,” said Poyet. “The goalkeeper, Fernando Alvez, said just before going down from the bus ‘we have to win, eh? We know the way back… it’s going to be difficult!’

The game went to penalties against world champions Brazil and Poyet was down to take the sixth. Fortunately for Poyet, it didn’t go that far.

“On our last penalty – to win it – I was so nervous. I was not taking it, luckily, but I was telling the player ‘score, don’t make me take the penalty!’ and he did,” said Poyet.

After seven years with Real Zaragoza, Poyet moved to England, joining Chelsea in 1997 after an influx of foreign talent the previous summer that included Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Di Matteo, Frank Lebeouf and Gianfranco Zola, and Poyet recalls the belief the team had.

“I had a feeling at Chelsea that I didn’t have in another club,” said Poyet. “When I was standing in the tunnel, I look in midfield – it was Dennis Wise, Dan Petrescu, Di Matteo and me, plus Gianfranco Zola. 

“My feeling looking at the position was ‘you’ve got a problem’. That kind of feeling was made by a group of players that was really together.”

After a spell at Tottenham, Poyet stepped into the dugout, with his first managerial job at Brighton being a huge success, but one tinged with disappointment.

In his first full season in charge, Poyet took Brighton to the title, establishing the Seagulls as a Championship club, finishing 10th in their first season and making the play-offs the second time around.

However, Brighton’s defeat to rivals Crystal Palace resulted in Poyet’s acrimonious exit, which he found out about while on working on live TV.

With his future in the balance and discussions ongoing around his place at the club, Poyet was working as a pundit for the BBC when the news came through that the Uruguayan had lost his job.

“I had an absolutely tremendous relationship with Tony Bloom,” said Poyet. “I think the two together, we were perfection. His knowledge of the game and the business side and the way we connected was spectacular.

“I think [the sacking] was disrespectful after what we’d done together. It was not nice.

“I can see the presenter [holding his hand to his ear] and he said ‘you just got the sack’. The BBC was loving it, they said ‘at half time we don’t talk about the game, we talk about you getting the sack here in the studio’!

Hear Poyet tell the full story of his dismissal as well as tales from his time at Chelsea, Tottenham, winning the Copa America with Uruguay, and the best XI he ever played against.

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