Q: If you could offer Phil Parkinson one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
Craig Davies says...
If I found Phil Parkinson slumped on a barstool in a darkened saloon looking for solace, my one piece of advice would be start planning for January now.
I don’t believe we need major squad reconstruction, I’ve still got faith in the core players, but in a very short space of time we’ve become stale and stagnant. Players such as Jordan Willis and George Dobson arrived with the fans of former clubs devastated at the loss of such players, that they believed could play at a higher level. Yet they’ve seemingly been swamped by a constricting and struggling ethos that has been negatively developed by Ross’s shrinking interest, at times the biting reaction of disappointed fans, as well as broader confusion over finance and ownership.
At the moment we don’t have a strike force that can fire us away from the bottom six, never mind rocket us towards promotion. They lack guile and craft. They lack confidence and fitness. More importantly, they lack goals.
Playing Watmore must be done if only to prove to potential suitors in January that he still exists as a footballing entity. A 22k a week salary is not sustainable in League One, unless the player in question is an ever-present dynamo who can change a game with consistent magic. As much as I admire the likeable lad, in practical terms, we could pay two top notch League One players with Watmore’s salary and key issues like this must be solved either in the next two months on the field by massive improvement or ultimately in a hectic transfer window that we may need to bolster a faltering squad.
Parkinson is a shrewd operator at this level and he must use his time with our current playing staff to assess their ability to help him achieve his undoubtedly brief of promotion.
Our full backs need developing quickly or replaced shortly when the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Day. But overall I don’t think we’re a million miles off. We’ve got two good keepers, Willis and Lynch have shown signs of forming a good partnership that with coaching and organisation will improve. We’ve a dynamic work horse in O’Nien, the best player in the league last season in McGeady, some eager and enthusiastic young players as well as proven, higher-end League One players like Gooch, Power and Maguire.
If Parkinson can use his lower-league nouse to organise this mob into a coherent and confident unit, then his experienced wheeling and dealing at this end of the footballing food aisle come January, it may well be enough for us to force our way back into contention for promotion.
I believe that Parkinson - the lower League alchemist - has the experience and knowhow to attain what we all want and what the club ultimately needs - promotion, and a successful January is surely necessary to gain it.
Phil West says...
Were I to offer Phil Parkinson a snippet of advice, it would be to embrace the enormity of the challenge he faces here at Sunderland and to not be afraid to dent some egos as he seeks to get us back onto the right track.
If some players aren’t performing then dig them out, because we have to set a standard of what is acceptable. He did it against Wycombe by dropping McLaughlin for Burge, a decision that should’ve been made weeks ago by the previous manager.
Parkinson has been brought in with the simple brief of achieving promotion. To me, this is almost an ‘at all costs’ kind of brief. The fans are restless, the club is going through some difficult times, and only promotion will quell the unrest. To that end, I’d love to see him be ruthless in terms of his team selections, and to quickly establish who is up for the fight and who isn’t. Parkinson is an experienced manager without a great deal to prove, and he doubtless views this as a fabulous opportunity to take Sunderland back to the Championship, an achievement for which he would be celebrated.
To that end I hope he stands by his own philosophy and beliefs, and always picks the starting eleven that HE believes can do the job for any given game. Managers are always liable to ruffle feathers when starting elevens are released and some fans are less than enthused by what they see, but if Parkinson sees certain players as well-suited to the opposition we play on a match day then that is good enough for me.
Everyone’s a managerial genius on Twitter, but the man in the dugout has the final say, and I hope that Parkinson has the cojones to make the big calls as and when they are needed.
Phil Butler says...
Attack attack attack!
The main reason for the apathy shown by some supporters upon the news of Parkinson’s appointment was not in relation to his record at getting clubs promoted out of League One - a record which was arguably the best out of all of the contenders for the job - but the fact that many see his style of football as everything that was wrong with Sunderland under Jack Ross... boring.
For Parkinson to change that perception he needs to know the defensive football we have seen him play at previous clubs was a sign of his pragmatism, rather than his footballing philosophy. The only way to do this is to go for it, especially in his early games in charge.
In the long-term I think Phil would be better off losing 4-3, 5-4 and 3-2 in his next three games than winning one of them 1-0 and losing the rest with similarly low-scoring results.
One of the main reason Jack Ross lost the faith of the Sunderland fans was due to his negative football - Parkinson must work hard in the early weeks of his reign to make sure he can prove he’s not just an older version of the previous occupant of the Sunderland manager’s office.
Tom Albrighton says...
My advice to Phil Parkinson is simple - don’t be scared.
Fear at this club is sniffed out in an instant by the fans - you have to have bottle, and tons of it. They say in France that the fate of glass is to break and ultimately the fate of every Sunderland manager, at some point, is to fail, but it's the fear of failure we can't stand.
Parkinson needs to take every gamble that presents itself because Sunderland fans are unique - we’d rather go down swinging than not at all. Jack Ross’s final months were a prime example, whereby his tenure was tainted so much by his desire to succeed that his players and himself became more fearful of losing than anything else.
Phil needs to be a gambling man at this club, it’s as simple as that. Sure, taking gambles may ultimately result in an untimely demise as easily as it can manifest itself in success, but he simply has to take them. There's no ifs, no buts or maybes about promotion this season - it has to happen, come hell or high water. Parkinson needs to be brave, make the right decisions, not be afraid to fail and to roll the dice.
If he does that and it works he’ll be heralded as a hero, a manager who saved a failing season, a manager who put Sunderland back on the track to success. If he fails then he fails - he won't be scarred by the experience; it won't be a career-ender.
Right now Sunderland are dictated by circumstance - this club is a huge opportunity to Parkinson and the players so he has to gamble, because the rewards for being brave are far, far richer than success at any other club in this division.