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Fan Letters: What does Phil Parkinson need to do to get Sunderland firing on all cylinders?

What do you think Phil Parkinson needs to do in order to get Sunderland firing on all cylinders? RR readers Andrew & Staffan give their thoughts on what has to happen. Let us know what you think - email us:!

Wycombe Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I was considerably less than impressed with Parkinson’s appointment for many reasons and I find it extremely concerning that the team couldn’t even be bothered to turn up for the new man against Wycombe, but I hope to God he proves me wrong. If he does, he will need to take drastic action, both now and in January. I think he needs to seriously look at his options and freshen things up.

McGeady really shouldn’t be starting as although he has moments of magic, he can equally be a liability by leaving the defence exposed.

Could we look at De Bock at LB and play Hume further up the park as a winger?

Could we leave Hume at LB and play someone else on the left wing? Robson can play on either flank as well as in the middle so would he be an option?

Could we use some of our youth talent as competition at RB?

We desperately need to inject some life into our engine room and to me, the midfield is key because that’s where we have most of our talent. Dobson was bought for a reason so let’s get him into the team and give him a run of games. Embleton can play either in front of the defence or in a more advanced role so let’s use the lad more. Kimpioka is another option as he can play wide and just off the striker so give him a chance. With O’Nien in there as well in an advanced role and we have a wealth of riches to use in the midfield, many of whom haven’t yet been given a proper run of games so let’s use them. A lot of them are players who like to get forward so surely it’s sensible to use their skills and go with just a single striker as that’s where we have very little effective talent. All that talent and I haven’t even mentioned Gooch who is another option.

Everyone seems to assume that Parkinson is suddenly going to get Grigg firing in goals all of a sudden but I have no idea what that assumption is based on. He wasn’t doing much at his previous club and they wanted rid of him for a reason; it’s just a shame we were the idiots to stump up so much cash for the guy! The fact is that McNulty looks like our best striker by some margin so he needs to be our main striker when fit.

A lot of the team picks itself so the real issue is how we use our midfield and get as many of our talented and youthful players involved as possible.

For me, I’d play Burge in goal. His form is better, his distribution is better and he deserves his chance.

In the defence, I’d play Hume at LB and although McLaughlin is the obvious choice at RB, I’d also be looking at Mumba or one of the other youth players as a serious option.

In the centre of defence it would be Willis with either Ozturk or Lynch.

In front of the defence I’d play a defensive midfielder and that would be either McGeouch or Embleton.

On the left wing I’d be tempted to try Robson as soon as we can get him back from Grimsby and use McGeady as an impact sub while on the right wing it would be either Gooch or O’Nien.

In the middle of the park I’d play Dobson and whoever went alongside him would depend on who I was playing elsewhere. If McGeouch was defensive midfielder and O’Nien was on the right, I’d use Embleton with Dobson. If Embleton was the defensive midfielder, I’d play Gooch on the right and O’Nien with Dobson. There are a number of permeations there that could work and give our midfield a bit of life and we still have Kimpioka as back-up..

That leaves a single striker and as I’ve already indicated, that would be McNulty.

You may well think that I’m talking madness but what we’re doing at the moment just isn’t working and we’re looking positively pedestrian. At least this sort of team has youth and some pace and I seriously think that this sort of midfield can create chances for whoever is the striker and probably score quite a few themselves.

Andrew White

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I think that we have to accept that there is going to be a period of adjustment. To expect an immediate impact from Parkinson would be unfair - much is made of the ‘new manager bounce’ but it isn’t always the case and we were simply outdone by a far more organised team in Wycombe on Saturday.

Parkinson has a difficult week ahead in that he’s had no time at all to prepare for Tranmere either. Ideally he’d have a full week to prepare for these games but he simply doesn’t - he has to try and pick a team that is going to go out and outplay (in my opinion) far weaker opposition tomorrow, and that’s not easy when you’re only just getting to know the players.

That said, he will have learned something from his players on Saturday. He decided to start the game with McGeady and Leadbitter, both of whom were anonymous and gave the type of performance that fans have became accustomed to recently.

If I had one piece of advice for Parkinson it would be this - pick the eleven players who are going to work the hardest for the team. Play with energy in midfield, because for me that’s the source of a lot of our problems - how can you dominate games when Leadbitter and McGeady are starting? They just haven’t got the legs to get about the park anymore and for all the quality they possess, teams who work hard nullify whatever they are capable of giving Sunderland at present.

He’s got a lot of work to do with virtually no time to sit and think on his decisions.

Wycombe Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’m a Swedish fan who like many others got hooked by the Netflix documentary and even though I’d never call myself a hardcore fan I like for Sunderland to do well. I followed most of the games last season on Chronicle and the echo and enjoyed ratings in the aftermath of the games.

It’s interesting to follow the analysis and opinions following the bad start to this season’s campaign. When we lost at Wembley I was convinced that the following season would be the year for promotion - now I feel pretty certain it wont!

I didn't think we were good enough to go up last season, after selling Maja we relied on the individual brilliance of McGeady and McLaughlin playing out of their skins and thought losing to Charlton was a blessing in disguise. Guess I was wrong!

Anyway, the reason for my optimism regarding the next season was that the chairman Stewart Donald also seemed to realise that the squad needed strengthening and he was very quick in announcing three things:

- we need to sign 6-8 players, better than the ones we've got onboard already.

- we don't need to shift any players to get this done.

- we have enough money to spend.

We did sign 6-8 players but since the ones we needed (yes we did) to sell now play either first division football in Holland, Europa League or doing okay in the Championship it's doubtful if the one we ended up signing are an improvement.

The owner spent a couple of hundred thousand on Dobson and the rest were free.

My feeling is that this year's squad is nowhere near as good as last years. McGeady is still not fit or has lost his flair, McLaughlin is about to prove that last year was a one off and since we never manage clean sheets the defence doesn't impress much either. Last year we scored in every league game, bar a windy night at Barnsley and this season we have already lost three times without scoring. I have an unpleasant feeling that this Sunderland team can lose to any of the other teams - we needed an overtime penalty to draw with Bolton - the lack of confidence shown by the likes of Power and Leadbitter leads me to believe that it starts to dawn on the players how average they are and that they are more likely to end the season closer to 50 points than 100!

For the owner to promise spending money on good signings while holding on to the better players while all the time knowing that it's not possible due to rules and regulations, selling captain Honeyman without informing the manager is nothing short of betrayal, like sending your men into battle without ammunition and to round it off asking for 100 points! It has now costed a good manager his job!

Staffan larsson

Ed’s Note [Gav]: Just a quick note - Honeyman wasn’t sold without the manager’s approval. Jack Ross had the final say on that decision - something confirmed by Stewart Donald many months ago.

I think many other supporters are probably in the same boat as you - they expected that we’d start this season like a house on fire but, for a litany of reasons, we haven’t.

What I personally believe is that we’ve got a squad now which is more equipped for League One than the one we had last year, but we aren’t playing like a typical League One side. Take Wycombe on Saturday, for instance - did they play scintillating football? Did they pass us off the park? Were we outplayed? The answer to all of those questions is a big fat no - they simply set up in a way to take full advantages of the weaknesses which have plagued this side for the last two years.

We are overly reliant on Aiden McGeady to produce moments of quality - you don’t need to be a professional data analyst to work that out. As such, teams double up on our left hand side to keep him quiet. For as long as Sunderland continue to play through McGeady it is my belief that we will struggle to control games - finding a way to play like a proper League One side is key.

Play with energy in the centre of the park. Put hard working wingers out wide with the remit to cross the ball into the box as often as possible. Pop a striker up front capable of getting into goalscoring positions. Play someone just off the frontman who works hard and presses.

We need to take a back to basics approach as we re-find our feet at this level. There are players in this squad who are more equipped for League One footy than some of the players who have been continually selected this season and the quicker Parkinson works that out, the quicker we’ll see Sunderland out-work the majority of teams and get back to winning ways.

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