When Gus Poyet was sacked by Brighton in the summer of 2013 I was absolutely devastated. Poyet had changed the club from top to bottom. Or is that from bottom to top? Because in that time we travelled from the depths of League One into the Championship play-offs just finger tips from the Championship play-off final. He changed the way we played, from hoofball to a slick passing game and he brought in a great team who worked on the entire squad from the youth set-up to the first team. Who on earth could replace him? Step up, Oscar Garcia.
Now, he may have the same ethos as Poyet, but he is a completely different manager. Rather than Poyet's outlandish hands on approach, Garcia brings a more reserved manner. He barely speaks to the players, but they know what he wants to do. During matches he sees every detail, he doesn't argue with decisions and he leaves it to his assistant Nathan Jones to herald the team with criticisms and advice.
Garcia came in when morale was low – we had just been beaten by arch-rivals Crystal Palace in the play-off semi-final and many players had left the club.
Now, Garcia is in his first season in England, getting across his Barcelona influenced footballing philosophy across to our squad. In fact I would arguably say we have been more entertaining and attacking with Garcia than under Poyet at this level.
I like Oscar and his ways, and given the restrictions seemingly imposed on him by the club's ambition to rightly fulfil FFP requirements (don't even get me started on QPR, Forest etc), I believe Garcia has done a great job.
I especially like the way he has integrated youth team into the first team, not just as bit part, but in key positions. I don't think this would have happened under Gus and I love the emergence of Rohan Ince and Solly March in particular.
Ince has gained a cult following, gaining God like status in his role in the middle of midfield. Many have compared him to Yaya Toure. March has showed no fear on the wings, beating experienced players and exciting the crowd with his dribbling. At such young ages, they have been brilliant to watch. It also shows the vital importance that our new academy and training ground will play in our clubs future.
He's been in a pretty difficult position with injuries, but he has handled the squad incredibly well, using pretty much every player and putting faith in everyone. The faith he puts in his players is shown. The difference in the players can be seen, especially in Kazenga LuaLua. Under Poyet he was used as an impact player. A player who didn't play away from home and barely ever started – but Oscar has put faith in him and it is clear to be seen. 'Kaz' is playing with freedom, flying down the wings and he looks a completely different player.
Garcia has sorted out our defence very well. Under Poyet we were good, but we often conceded late goals and cracked under pressure. Our defensive record in the league is the best, 25 conceded in 30 games. It is a tremendous base to build upon in our own quest for glory (AKA sneaking into sixth place in the play-offs).
I'm not saying Garcia is any better than Poyet and I'm not trying to slate Poyet. All I'm saying is that Poyet leaving was a blessing in disguise. I don't think Poyet would have been able to succumb to FFP like Oscar Garcia has and I don't think our club would be in the position it is. I never trusted Poyet's loyalty. Whereas I can see that Garcia is in it for the long-haul. The club is secure (despite a loss of £14.7 million) and we're doing well in the league and we're still in the hat for the FA Cup despite being on a significantly less budget than most of the teams we're competing against.
Gus Poyet was a fantastic manager and I thank him for everything he has done, but I'm loving life under Oscar Garcia.