The Uruguayan has revealed a chance encounter with the Northern Irishman on a League Managers' Association golf day whetted his appetite for working with the Black Cats
The Uruguayan was chosen earlier this month to succeed Paolo Di Canio, whose controversial reign at the Stadium of Light ended just six matches into the season amid poor results and player unrest.
And Poyet admits it was the glowing appraisal of the Black Cats from another former manager which made him pick the North East for his first venture into Premier League management.
“I know Sunderland, I have played here. I suffered a big defeat here with Chelsea,” he told reporters.
“I know about the fans and I was lucky, by coincidence, that I played in an LMA golf day in the summer with Martin O’Neill.
“We were in the same buggy and I asked him something like 150 questions about Sunderland, and he spoke very highly about everybody here.
“He’s a very honest person, Martin, an absolutely lovely person. He spoke highly about the chairman, the fans, the players. I used him, when he was having 18 holes with me, to get information. He probably thought: ‘What’s the matter with this guy, always asking questions?’”
Sunderland lie six points from safety after seven matches without a win this season, but Poyet remains hopeful he can keep the club in the top flight.
“I think there’s time,’’ he insisted. “It’s much easier now than after 15-20 games. I’m not going to put everything on me if we go down, but I will accept my responsibility.’’