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Interview: Bradford fanzine editor speaks incredibly well of new Sunderland boss Phil Parkinson

We sat down for a chat with Mike Harrison - editor of Bradford City fanzine ‘The City Gent’ - to find out more about Phil Parkinson and to gather his thoughts on why he thinks he’s the right man to lead Sunderland forward.

Sunderland Unveil New Manager Phil Parkinson Photo by Sunderland AFC/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

RR: Phil Parkinson’s appointment as Sunderland manager has been met with mixed responses by our fans. What would you say to people who aren’t sure what to make of him?

MH: I do wonder what the Sunderland fans expect these days? Whether they like it or not, Sunderland are in League One and as they found last season, dropping down a division and being instantly the ‘big club’ that every other team wants to beat can be difficult.

Especially as it seems from the outside that the club is still re-building a team that suits the current level. Eight years ago when Phil Parkinson turned up at Valley Parade there was a mixed response from the Bradford City fans. But this was mainly due to his previous less than glorious jobs at Hull City and Charlton Athletic.

But look at his record over the past eight years and perhaps only Chris Wilder has done a better job at management in the football league. His first season at Valley Parade was tough but he steadied what was a sinking ship. Once he had chance to change the squad at the end of that 2011/12 season his stewardship along with his staff got level four Bradford City to a major cup final and though we were thrashed by Swansea City, he got the team going and the Bantams went back to Wembley to win the ply off final.

Whilst at Bradford there was a Year on Year rise up the table. Add in the amazing FA Cup win away at Chelsea followed by the home win against Sunderland should show fans of the Black Cats that this guy is a winner.

Had the takeover not happened in the summer of 2016, arguably he’d still be at Valley Parade with the team in the a Championship. It took great courage to leave and then you look at the miracles he managed at Bolton Wanderers in his three years there.

If what he has done for the past eight years as a manager isn’t good enough to win over the Sunderland fans I don’t think he will care. He will just focus on the job in hand and ignore the naysayers.

Bradford City v Bury - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Replay Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

RR: What sort of job did he do for Bradford?

MH: He did a superb job at Bradford City. He revitalised the club and could have taken it further, but he wisely choose to leave when he saw the calibre, or lack of, of one of the new German owners.

I was absolutely gutted when he left, as were most Bradford City fans.

RR: What style of football would you say defines Parkinson as a manager?

MH: He is a practical and pragmatic manager. He will get the job done and he and his staff will be dedicated to get 100% out of each and every one of the playing squad.

Looking back, sometimes the football we watched wasn’t overly entertaining, but it got results. I think the main thing is that he has players that want to play for him.

RR: What sort of manager is he?

MH: Parkinson Is a very good a judge of character and will only bring in and use players that fit in with the rest of the squad. At Bradford more other than not, the team were greater than the sum of the parts.

We had good players, but he created great teams which at League One and League Two level massively overachieved. Just ask Jon McLaughlin what he is like as a manager. I suspect he’s highly delighted to be working for him again.

Bradford City v Northampton Town - npower League Two Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

RR: What would you say his relationship was like with the Bradford supporters?

MH: Phil Parkinson in the main had a good relationship with the Bradford City fans because he had a record at the club which nobody could criticise. Well, some did, but there’s no pleasing everyone is there?

He was often very guarded in his comments, but I think a manager should be. Far too many fans these days feel they need to know everything about how the football club is run and what the manager and players think and do. You won’t get anything more out of Phil Parkinson he is contractually obliged to do. That would be a distraction to the job in hand, which will now be making the playing side of Sunderland football club successful again.

RR: Obviously, the situation that Parkinson is walking into at Sunderland is a lot different to any other job he’s taken on, in that he’s not walking into a mess but a club in a good position, with a big, talented squad at his disposal. Having mainly taken over at clubs where he’s had to deal with challenging circumstances, how do you think he’ll fare having been dealt a better hand in this situation?

MH: He walked into a mess at Valley Parade in September 2011. He walked into a mess at Bolton Wanderers in the summer of 2016. The guy seems to love a challenge and on the evidence of how he performed in the previous two, there can be no better man available to take on the challenge that faces him at Sunderland.

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