Sunderland sack head coach Gus Poyet after less than 18 months

Sunderland have sacked head coach Gus Poyet in the wake of Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to Aston Villa.

Villa were four goals up by half-time at the Stadium of Light, prompting large numbers of home supporters to walk out and a few to approach the home dug-out before security staff stepped in.

The result left Sunderland just a point clear of the relegation places, and they have won just once in the Premier League since Christmas.

The Uruguayan, who succeeded Paolo Di Canio in October 2013, had earlier taken training for the final time.

Owner Ellis Short said in a statement: “I would like to thank Gus for his endeavours during his time at the club, in particular last season’s ‘great escape’ and cup final appearance, which will live long in the memory of every Sunderland fan.

“Sadly, we have not made the progress that any of us had hoped for this season and we find ourselves battling, once again, at the wrong end of the table. We have therefore made the difficult decision that a change is needed.”

Poyet oversaw a late escape from relegation last season as Sunderland won four straight games in April and May, but they are yet to record back-to-back league victories this season.

And that Bradford upset prompted Poyet to publish an open letter urging supporters “not to let anyone break our relationship”.

Saturday’s protests proved not all fans heeded that message, and the board has acted with nine games left for Sunderland to secure survival.

The decision brings to an end a relationship with Poyet that has not always been plain sailing: at times he appeared to struggle with a management system that saw Short and sporting director Lee Congerton take full responsibility for player recruitment.

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