Sunderland AFC is a massive football club - it’s comfortably the biggest in this division, and if we were in the one above we’d be one of the biggest clubs at that level too. We’ve got a huge supporter base worldwide and, even in the third tier, we have average home crowds of around 30,000 people. With that comes a huge expectancy to succeed - in relative terms, of course.
Nobody reading his has learned anything new by me stating that but it’s the one thing that is used to shape the narrative around any of the issues that our club faces - this club, despite earning its place here, should not be content with playing third tier football.
The task of the man in the manager’s hot-seat is to get us back into more comfortable surroundings as quickly as possible. Jack Ross wasn’t able to do it, and the opinion of the vast majority of supporters was that he wasn’t going to get us there at the second time of asking either. Various polls ran across different social media platforms showed that of those that had voted, the majority were in agreement that the last manager needed to go.
The club’s owners were in agreement, and as such they removed Jack from his position. They accepted that we weren’t moving forward in a positive direction under his leadership, and the task of finding the man who would be capable of getting Sunderland promoted this season began almost immediately.
From the off it was clear that a certain type of manager was being considered - almost all of the frontrunners suggested by bookmakers were experienced campaigners, many of whom had League One promotions on their CVs. Pearson, Cook, Parkinson, Stendel - unspectacular but dependable candidates who have previously shown a capability of delivering on the exact thing that Sunderland crave more than anything else.
After a considerable period of research and interviewing candidates, Sunderland’s owners have settled on Phil Parkinson - an extremely experienced EFL manager with two League One promotions to his name, one of which came just two years ago.
It’d be ignorant if we didn’t at least acknowledge that there’s a decent portion of supporters who don’t appear to be happy with the appointment. I wouldn’t say that I feel especially inspired by the decision, but I can see quite clearly why he’s been viewed as the man most suitable to take Sunderland out of this division.
I don’t actually understand some of the negativity, however. I’m yet to hear from anyone a valid reason for why Parkinson is apparently such a bad choice. People say that his style of football is poor - well, his teams are defensively solid, and under trying circumstances he got Bolton promoted. Is that not commendable? Mick McCarthy and Sam Allardyce are remembered fondly by most of our supporters, yet you could hardly allege that either of them played inspiring brands of football. I’ve seen others suggest Kevin Phillips would have been a better choice - why, exactly? Because he once played for us? I’ve seen people say that Parkinson’s win ratio is worse than Jack Ross’s - well it will be, he’s managed a lot of games in the Championship with teams like Bolton, who were under a transfer embargo, and Colchester, who are a tiny club who Parkinson had punching well above their weight.
Jack Ross’s Sunderland struggled to keep clean sheets, struggled to win battles in the centre of the park and struggled to get their strikers scoring goals. Parkinson appears to be a coach who prides himself on having an organised team, one that works hard and every player knows their role in the side. If he can bring that extra bit of effort out of the players whilst also setting them up to play in a way that suits our best characteristics, I have no doubt that he’ll get us promoted. Talk is cheap, of course, but these are logical suggestions and ones that I don’t doubt Parkinson has designs on achieving as quickly as possible.
For him to be able to do the job he’s been brought in to achieve he needs the full backing of the supporters, the owners and the players. Time will tell if he gets that but the best thing all parties can do is wish him well and let him at least show us over the next ten or twelve games what sort of changes he’s capable of implementing before we can get an idea of what Parkinson’s Sunderland will look like, and what they’re capable of achieving.
In his introductory press conference Parkinson spoke about the fact we have two games in the coming days whereby we can pull ourselves right up close to the league leaders if we can take maximum points. He’s here to roll up his sleeves and get the results we need as soon as possible - there is no time to mess about.
The best thing we can all do is cross our fingers and hope that the decision to replace Jack Ross with this fella was a smart decision, one that will improve our results. I for one can’t wait to see where this takes us, and have total faith in Parkinson’s ability to deliver the one and only thing that Sunderland should be targeting this season - promotion.
Welcome to Sunderland, Phil.