Denis Irwin was deployed as a right back instead of his usual left back role. 1 of the Chelsea player shouted instructions to his roommate to give him a long ball, attacking Irwin because of their height difference. In the very first minute of the match, THAT long ball was delivered. And everything went according to plan. Chelsea scored and went on to win 5-0 that night. The player who scored was Gus Poyet, his roommate: Dan Petrescu.
Gus Poyet is a walking storybook. That was one of his many stories during his 10-day stint in Kuala Lumpur.
Everytime we bring a visiting pundit down, I will assign 2 my colleagues to greet them at the airport. I make it a point to rotate so everyone gets a chance. Sure it sounds like a straightforward task but it’s usually the most nerve-wrecking. The thought of them not showing up or missing the flight is a real fear. For Gus Poyet in September, that almost became a reality. After almost an hour of waiting, my colleague Ashvin texted me to say that there is no sign of him at the arrival hall. Panic mode!
A few minutes later, Ashvin informed me that he spotted Gus from a distance BUT there was a problem. The airlines had lost his baggage!
Once the problem was sorted, Gus and his wife was driven to their hotel. The airlines was going to deliver their baggage that night itself. So my biggest worry was that Gus would be in a horrible mood. Any normal person would be. I know I would kick up a fuss. But Gus, no.
When we brought him out for dinner that night – not a single mention of that incident. No whining, no complaining, no long face – nothing. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Gus and his wife, who was a ball of energy – were very pleasant, friendly and humorous. In the 10-minute walk from the hotel lobby to the restaurant, Gus had his arms around one of my colleagues and already talking like they were long lost friends, who met up after 10-year gap. His wife, a mirror of Gus – we immediately hit it off. No awkwardness. Nothing. It really felt like friends hanging out, even though we only just met.
During dinner, Gus and his wife talked a lot about their son, Diego. From how energetic he was a child, how good he was at almost every sport, and how he always couldn’t call home because his phone battery would be flat. Everywhere they went now, Gus and his wife would buy Diego a power bank – so he didn’t have an excuse to not call home. They are a very cute couple – Gus and his wife. Constantly teasing each other. Gus would always refer to his wife’s habit of shopping. His wife, was actually reluctant to join for dinner because she didn’t want to listen to guys talking about football all night. It was so endearing to see a couple who had been married for over 2 decades, still behave so lovingly with each other.
We spoke a lot about cultural differences too. And how a certain word could be harmless in one country but deemed insulting in another. Luis Suarez came up a lot. There was one occasion when Tottenham faced Man Utd and Gus was the assistant manager to Juande Ramos. After the match, Ramos was not used to having drinks with the opposite manager. This was not common practice in other leagues and so Ramos did not want to go, and asked Gus to go on his behalf. Gus tried his best to convince Ramos that it was not any manager it was Sir Alex Ferguson. Gus also spoke about how Gianfranco Zola a lot too they are neighbours in London. Gus considers Zola the best footballer he’s ever played with. No question.
When we finished dinner, I remember how Gus offered to pay. We were taken aback. Obviously we were not going to allow him to because he’s our guest but the gesture spoke volumes about his character. He was genuinely prepared to pay for the meal. So just from 2 hours of dinner on Day 1, already I could tell that Gus was going to be a great addition to our channel, and that the team would enjoy working with him.
Over the next few days, working on the live matches, studio shows and interviews, we would continue be overwhelmed with his stories.
Gus also spoke about how close the managers really are in the Premier League. How Tony Pulis rang him up to enquire about Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon, who he eventually signed in 2015. Gus had connections in Spain, so asked a few of his friends about the player and then relayed the information to Pulis. Early this year, Alan Pardew rang him up to get some insight about Connor Wickham before eventually signing the striker in August.
Many of you might not know that one of the reasons Gus left Chelsea was because of Claudio Ranieri. And you would think that he’d react angrily and be bitter about the experience but no. He’s very realistic about it. He spoke about how Ranieri used him as a translator within the team, because his English wasn’t the greatest when he took over at Chelsea. And knowing Gus, he was willing to help at first but it started affecting his game – because Ranieri would stop sessions in training and pull Gus out just to communicate certain ideas to players. The worst part - was that Gus even was asked to inform players when they were dropped from the team! It was not easy and quite frankly unfair for him. That was the limit - Gus soon refused to help play ‘translator’ for Ranieri. And eventually found himself on the other side of London, playing for Tottenham.
I could go on. But I hope that I’ve provided you with a small window into who Gus Poyet is. A man with a big heart, a very strong character on and off the pitch. And most importantly, someone who loves sharing. What better way to share than to talk. In one of our interview series #YouAsk, Reem asked Gus to describe himself in one word. No prizes for guessing what his answer was.
There is an ongoing dialogue within the team awaiting the first guest we bring down that is a complete nightmare. But so far, we’ve been very fortunate to secure absolute gentlemen who are professional, friendly and real. In Gus Poyet, we have yet another Mr Nice Guy.
Catch Gus Poyet on #YouAsk on Tuesday, October 13, 9:00pm on Astro SuperSport.