Dear Roker Report,
I think a lot of fans need to be realistic and accept that where the club have gone wrong, it probably isn’t down to individual errors. Donald was wrong to pay so much money for Grigg but I very much doubt that he just picked Grigg at random. The recruitment department probably raised the name and Ross probably endorsed the idea he was a good player so there is blame everywhere.
Given the style of football Ross was playing, he should have known that Grigg wasn’t an ideal target. The recruitment department should have known that too AND have had alternatives available. Donald should have realised that he was being asked to pay way too much money. The club isn’t failing because one person is making a mistake, it’s because they’re not working together effectively.
Exactly the same thing goes for the playing squad. Personally, I think we do have good players for this league, which is why so many people think we should be doing better. Right across the park we have players who are either internationals, played at a higher level or achieved promotion from this league and in some cases they’ve done all three. That would very strongly suggest we have excellent players for this league as the ‘team’ is packed with individual quality (for this league).
The problem is that a great team is rarely made of lots of great individuals. A great team will be greater than the sum of its parts and there are plenty examples of this being true. Alex Ferguson had some great players in his teams but he also had some pretty average Premiership players. His skill was being able to mould them into an effective team and that’s where Sunderland have been failing for years. Think about when Leicester City won the Premiership - did they have the best players in the Premiership? Not by a country mile in my opinion yet they still won the title by being the most effective team unit.
Parkinson and the club as a whole have some tough choices to make for January. Parkinson has to decide on the style of play he wants for Sunderland and then based on that, the club need to decide who has to go and who they bring in to create the effective team that we need. Nobody has done that for years at Sunderland and it hasn’t really been any better under our current owners. If it had, we wouldn’t have signed Grigg or Wyke and we would have sold McGeady rather than giving him a new deal.
Can this be done in January? It’s possible but I have my reservations. Based on our current form we may well be too far behind by January, certainly for automatic promotion. I’m also concerned that Parkinson seems to keep picking the same 4-2-3-1 formation that has failed for us so far. I have no objection to that as a system but if that’s what he wants to play, we need to make absolutely sure that he has the right players for that system. My concern is that we don’t have those players yet he keeps playing it anyway.
I’m equally concerned that he seems to be making the same ill-judged selections each week. Why does he keep picking Grigg? Giving him lots of games won’t suddenly make him a good striker but it will cost us games because each game we effectively have a target man who is a passenger. Why does he keep playing McGeady when we always play worse when he’s in the team? He didn’t play against Tranmere and look what happened. He’s played most games since then and the team look awful yet he keeps getting picked.
I agree with his ambition to play more attacking football but I think that 4-2-3-1 has us sitting too deep. Personally I’d only play one holding midfielder so it becomes more like a 4-1-4-1. The real point here is that it doesn’t matter what system we play as long as we have the right players for that tactical approach. Sunderland’s problem is that we don’t have a clear tactical approach and we haven’t had one for years so our recruitment hasn’t been targeted. In many ways we’re making the same mistakes we did in the Short era but with less money.
I didn’t want Parkinson as manager but he’s here so we have to make the best of it. He needs to tell the club exactly the style of play he wants and who he can use from the current crop of players. He needs to tell them that VERY soon and after that, the club need to get rid of who Parkinson can’t use and recruit players who do actually fit that playing style and have the right mentality to create a proper team.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I honestly think that it won’t be fair to start judging Parkinson properly until after the January window. Right now it’s right to point to the results and the fact they’re not good enough, but in Parkinson’s defence he’s had to try and work out a way of playing, and has tried to give as many players as possible game-time in order to get a proper look at them, all while playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday since he arrived.
That said, we’re three points behind third-place Peterborough with two games in hand over them. This situation is not a disaster. There’s still lots of football left to be played and we’ve got to ensure that, come January, we are within touching distance of the top two. We then address any issues with the playing squad, hopefully improve, and then kick on.
In theory, anyways. It’s easier said than done.