Your questions answered by football's biggest legends
Brighton boss Gus Poyet answers FourFourTwo readers' questions back in January 2011.
"I really don't want to lose my hair," admits Gus Poyet, and for the first time today, he's not smiling. FFT is half an hour into our meeting with the Brighton gaffer at the club's new £96m Amex Stadium on the outskirts of the city, and the man affectionately known as 'The Radio' has changed frequency so often, it was only a matter of time before the topic of baldness came up. He explains: "I try to forget about football after training, like Ruud [Gullit] did at Chelsea, but I just can't switch off. I've started playing golf, but by the time I've stopped talking about the game we're on the 18th hole!"
The Uruguayan was first given the moniker by his Real Zaragoza team-mates for his insistence on reciting the previous match, and 20 years on it remains as apt a nickname as you'll find in football. Still, when your last game was a 3-0 away win to put your team eight points clear at the top, such enthusiasm is understandable. And thankfully, the ex-Chelsea and Spurs man greets every one of your questions with similar glee. We begin in the shadows of the French Alps, when a young midfield dynamo first tried, and failed, to make his name in Europe...
You first came to Europe as a 20-year-old, Gus, yet you were back home within a year. Why didn't it work out in France and did you think you'd ever get the return over here?
Roy Trevana, Dartford
I could look for excuses or reasons - the team ‚I played for [Grenoble] wasn't the greatest - but the truth is I didn't perform well. I wanted to stay and make a point, but it wasn't possible. I honestly thought it would be very hard to come back to Europe, but I got my bit of luck. People think being a pro footballer is about talent and hard work, but at some moment you need a bit of luck, and I got it at Zaragoza. There was a Uruguayan manager [Ildo Maniero] there and another Uruguayan player was coming over, and I got in with them and never looked back.
I don't know anything about Uruguay. Is it true you're all obsessed by barbecues?
Lucy Harris, Swansea
Yes, football and barbecues! The way we get together is like how the
English do to go for a drink, but we do this for an asado [barbeque]. I
have a very close group of friends and when we get together, we eat and
eat while talking about life and football. Two or three people are
always in charge of cooking the meat, but I'm useless! I love to do it
here but you need the weather, people to cook it, and a lot of meat!
You were player of the tournament when Uruguay won the 1995 Copa America. Where do these achievements rank in your career?
Kieran Raynor, Geneva
First, I wasn't player of the tournament; I was player of the
tournament in my position. I know in England a lot of fans prefer club
over country, but this is not the case in Uruguay so to win this cup
was incredible for everybody. We played 4-3-3 with me at left midfield.
It wasn't my best position, but because of our quality upfront -
Francescoli, Fonseca, Otero - the rest of us did the running, we gave
them the ball, and they won us the Copa America. I was so proud.
I can't believe a player with your talent only won 26 caps, Gus. What's the story there?
Paul Arthur, via email
I did start late for Uruguay [aged 25], but I'll be honest, the team
played the worst kind of football for my ability. I was lucky enough to
play in club teams that kept hold of the ball, looked to put it wide
and created opportunities for me to arrive late in the box. But it was
very different for the Uruguay national team during my time: the
football was very direct and it was all about giving the ball to the
strikers. I had no chance to get in the box and that's why I only
scored three goals. I didn't get any chances!
If you hadn't made it in football, what do you think you'd be doing?
Having seen you talk on TV, you're clearly comfortable in front of the
microphone. Ever consider a media career?
Gareth Ford, via Facebook
I'm not called 'The Radio' for nothing! [laughs]; I'd love my own radio
show, although I think I'd need a six-hour slot, daily! In all
seriousness, I was studying to be an engineer, so that's probably what
I'd have done. I like maths and trying to work out crazy problems. I
was really into my studies and was going to do it at uni, until at 18 I
realised I could be a footballer.
I remember you playing for Zaragoza against Arsenal in the 1995 Cup
Winners' Cup Final when Nayim lobbed Seaman. What a goal! What did that
win mean to the club and city?
D Felice, Rome
I've always said that at the Parc des Princes in Paris, they should put
a plaque near the half-way line reading: "Here Nayim scored the most
incredible goal ever in the 119th minute", because no one will repeat
what he did. I cried like a baby after that game and after we'd partied
for 48 hours, the whole squad went out onto the [Zaragoza] pitch and we
stood at the spot where Nayim kicked the ball. We tried to do it. Every
single player. And then we tried again. No chance. So what Nayim did
made him special for me. I also thank Nayim because it was him who told
me about English football. I remember him saying, "Don't try to score
with your hand; Don't go down; Don't cheat…" He made me worried! But
his advice helped a lot.
You joined Chelsea after seven years at Real Zaragoza. With all due
respect to the Blues, weren't there bigger clubs of the time keen on
you especially as you were going on a free?
Charles Baker, via Twitter
There were, but Chelsea came at the right time and made a firm offer. I
could see something was building there and I wanted to be part of that.
There was talk of other clubs being keen, Real Madrid being one as my
team-mate [Fernando] Morientes had just joined them, and there was also
a chance to go to Inter: supposedly it was either me or [Diego]
Simeone, but there was nothing on the table when Chelsea came calling.
Inter would have been great, but I have to say English football was
probably much better suited to my game.
That incredible scissor-kick volley against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in 1999 - the best goal you've ever scored?
Mike Rogers, Putney
In terms of quality, no doubt. But I prefer other goals that were more
important: the two against Newcastle at Wembley [2000 FA Cup
semi-final] for example. I have such good memories of those goals at
the old stadium. I loved the old Wembley, and I don't like the new one.
You can go to big stadiums across the world and find many that look the
same as the new one, but before it was so unique. It was the Wembley:
the proper Wembley where everybody wanted to play.
As a flair player in the Premiership, you must have been on the end of
a few hefty tackles. Who was your toughest-ever opponent?
Kelly Young, Feltham
One name: Roy Keane. No doubt. We played in positions where we faced
each other a lot: I was trying to attack and he was trying to stop me,
so I had a few knocks and a few marks. Some remember Roy for the bad
things he did, but he was so influential. Wow. Manchester United were a
totally different team without him.
A friend of mine once told me there used to be three dressing rooms at
Chelsea and you had to share yours with Hasselbaink, Melchiot and the
elusive Winston Bogarde; is this true?
Gary Lewis, Oxford
Yes, it's true. This was at the old training ground [Harlington]. There
was nothing wrong with the place but it wasn't the best for a team
playing in the Champions League. When you joined the club you were
given whatever space was free in one of the tiny changing rooms and you
would keep that spot. When Jimmy signed and was put in our room, we'd
have such a laugh with him. He'd just come from Atletico and liked to
try out his Spanish, but as soon as he went to say a word we'd all
shout ‚ "gordo!" ("fat") back at him! [laughs] Listen, Jimmy was a big
What were your first impressions of Claudio Ranieri when he arrived at
Chelsea? Is it true that you were his translator for a while?
Helen Cooper, via email
Six months! For six months I was his translator! [FFT: How was that?]
It was difficult, let's say, especially during training. I'd be trying
to focus on one thing and the next minute I was helping the manager
explain something complicated. I even had to drop players for him. I
hated that. I'd say, "Look, it's not me saying this!" It wasn't nice to
You were a crowd favourite at Chelsea, Gus, so what were you thinking when you put in a transfer request and joined Spurs?!
Richard Sammons, Deal
Look, I'm a Chelsea fan. I think the fans know how much I gave to the
club. The thing was, when I was there, Chelsea had not lost to Spurs in
a long time so I didn't see them as rivals; normally, the teams fans do
not like are the teams they cannot beat! I had the chance to go to
Liverpool but I was keen to stay in London. But after I played against
Chelsea, I remember thinking, "Oh, what have I done?" I'm not making
excuses, I just didn't realise. It was my fault and I need to accept
that. Yes, I celebrated by the Chelsea bench when we beat them 5-1 in
the League Cup, but that was purely for Ranieri. He was why I put in a
transfer request and it was personal.
Your goal record was fantastic. Did you ever consider playing as a striker?
James Khan, via Facebook
Yes, I was a striker before I moved to Spain. I played in midfield
until I was 15, when I moved upfront. When I joined Zaragoza, they
played 4-4-2; it was impossible for me to play as one of the two so I
had to drop back.
You played under Gullit, Vialli, Ranieri, Hoddle and Pleat. Which of
these did you enjoy playing for the most? And which was the hardest to
S Singh, via email
Ruud was special. He was a manager who could concentrate on football
like crazy at 10.30am, but then at 2.30pm, that's it, football's over.
I'm trying to be more like him, because now I think about it 24/7. It's
good to have that control of your life. You need time to relax, but
some managers can't do this, which is why you hear of them having heart
attacks! Then there was Ranieri, who didn't want to cope with strong
characters. As soon as you showed you cared a bit too much for the
team, he wanted you out. He's done it everywhere he's been.
How did you get the No.2 job at Spurs, Gus? Did you know Juande Ramos before then?
Mike Corrales, New York
I'm not a believer in coincidence but there were so many things that
came together for me to get that job: I'd played for Spurs; the man who
was central in getting him over from Spain was one of my best friends;
and by then I'd had over a year as an assistant manager in League Two
with Swindon, League One with Leeds, and then I found myself on the
next step. It was amazing and I couldn't say no. But, no, I didn't know
Juande before. Remember how we talked about how Ranieri used me in
training before? Well, that was also how Juande needed me at first!
You and Ramos left White Hart Lane under a bit of a cloud. Did you feel bitter about what happened?
David Bash, via email
It was a tough time for me, it was the first time I was sacked and it
wasn't nice, but you learn from it and I think it was the right
decision. Seeing where Spurs are now, you have to believe that. Why try
to make excuses? The only problem is, they need to win another trophy,
because their last one was won by Ramos, and until they do, Ramos is in
the history of the club. I must say, though, the Berbatov situation
didn't help us. He wanted to leave Spurs in May but the club refused to
let him go until the last day of the transfer window. [Shrugs] What can
I see your son Diego has just made his international debut for England U16s! Don't you want him to play for Uruguay?
Jerry Phillips, via email
It's something I don't want to push either way. One of the greatest
things FIFA has done is realise that when boys are young, they feel
pressure to make a decision. In the past, you couldn't change: if you
played one minute for one national team, that was it. But thankfully
FIFA has changed things, so I think conditions are perfect for Diego to
play here. He's played in England for years, so it's natural. Then, if
Uruguay call him up one day, it's his decision.
Congrats on your son's Three Lions call-up, Gus! What advice have you given him?
Glen Keller, via Twitter
He won't thank me for saying this, but his girlfriend rang me up the
other day and I warned her that the age he's at is the worst time for
footballers. I think Diego knows this and he's a good boy, but I'm
trying to ensure he's surrounding himself with people who realise if he
wants to be a pro he can't go out drinking with 25 different girls.
When I was his age, many players were better than me, but when they got
to 16 they started living la vida loca; game over. I was committed. I
missed out on stuff and it hurt. But you decide on your career.
I have to ask about Luis Suarez's deliberate handball in the World Cup,
Gus. Be truthful: what would you have done in that situation?
Leigh Avery, Bristol
The same. No question. I heard people say it was cheating, but cheating
is when you simulate that someone's kicked you when they haven't, or
when you go down for a penalty when there is no touch. But Suarez
didn't cheat. It's like if someone's one-on-one with the keeper in the
last minute and you bring them down: you put your team ahead of
yourself and you get a red card. That doesn't mean you're cheating.
Listen, Suarez is a hero. I'd advise any of my players in that
situation to do exactly the same.
How does Brighton beach compare to the beaches of Montevideo?
Anth Barlow, Swanage
I'm sorry, but I have to say the beaches at home are much better. We
have very soft, white sand. I'm not such a fan of the big stones! I was
used to living near the sea, so I like Brighton. I haven't been able to
take the family to the beach yet: this summer was too complicated with
my first pre-season here, the World Cup, my son starting at Charlton,
but I will!
I know it's ugly, but given our great form at the Withdean, are you sure we want to leave?
Dan Tso, via email
Yes. Yes. Yes! Why? Because this place is going to be incredible. The
atmosphere will be amazing when it's filled with 22,500 fans. The
Withdean is horrible. I even feel sorry for the away fans. I shouldn't,
but at night games you cannot even see them. I feel such pity for these
Someone told me that one of your first signings at Brighton gazumped
you on a seafront property when you first moved here! Did you make the
guilty party pay in training?
John Sneed, Brighton
Yes, it was a lovely seafront flat. I wanted it but he nicked it from
me! OK, I'll tell you who it was: [Inigo] Calderon. He took it! I
haven't made him pay in training, but that's a good idea!
You won the FA Cup with Chelsea, Gus, but have you had a chance to watch the 1983 classic between Brighton and Man United?
Jason Werner, Kingston
People talk about that game a lot down here, but I haven't seen it. I'm
not that concerned with history. Remember, I come from a place where we
won the World Cup in 1930 and 1950 and we didn't stop talking about it
for 50 years. I really didn't like that. Football has changed and
Uruguay needs to move on. Here, it is the same. Let's try to get to the
final and win it this time! Listen, I have plans to stay in Brighton:
the way I see it, as a manager, either you go to a top, top team or you
stay at one club and try and create something.
Interview: Charlie Ghagan. Portrait: Steve Orino. From the January 2011 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!
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