It’s safe to say Phil Parkinson wasn’t the universal choice as far as the fans were concerned to follow Jack Ross footsteps into the Sunderland hot seat. This appointment followed a sacking that I’m not sure Sunderland fans have ever experienced, certainly not in my lifetime. Jack Ross was relieved of his duties after 14 games that included 2 defeats and a run of 5 straight victories, with the team sat 6th in League One and within touching distance of automatic promotion.
By presenting these facts I am not trying to argue against the sacking of Jack Ross, but to simply highlight that it was not as clear cut as managerial sackings usually are in the traditional sense. We sacked a manager that was, relatively speaking, getting decent results - and as a club, that put us in uncharted territory.
A new managerial appointment usually has the requirements of picking up a demoralised squad of players who are hopelessly out of form and improving a league position that is way below expectations. Also, the expectations of these appointments are almost always low, if the new manager fails to achieve any improvement then it could be argued it was a tough job where chance of success was low.
If we take into account the position we found ourselves in after the sacking of Jack Ross it was clear we weren’t far away and the new manager would need to implement tweaks to the playing style rather than a revolution. It could be argued from our starting position that we required a shove in the right direction rather than wholesale changes from the new manager, otherwise if that was the case, it’s possible to argue Ross was overachieving.
Taking into account the odd circumstances of the appointment, what did we expect the impact to be of appointing a manager who on looking back at his previous teams had different ideals to the man he followed? It seems strange that when a change required simply an improvement in what we were doing, we appointed a manager who would take the team in different direction - it is inevitably going to take time.
The two league victories so far have come against two of the worst sides in the division in the form of Tranmere Rovers and Southend United. There aren’t many conclusions we can draw from those except we got what was expected, although the Southend game was concerning in terms of how we performed, but complicated by the fact they had appointed Sol Campbell in the run up to the game.
To complicate things further, our two league defeats under Parkinson have come against improved performances with more attacking intent that saw us unfortunate to come away from high-flying Wycombe Wanderers and mid-table Shrewsbury Town empty handed.
In the cups competitions we have laboured to draws against Oxford United and Gillingham whilst suffering defeats to Leicester City U21 and League Two strugglers Scunthorpe United. Although those defeats have come in the Football League Trophy that nobody really cares about in the grand scheme of things, Parkinson has fielded strong sides in the search for performances and results and by doing so has made these games significant defeats.
There is an argument not to judge Parkinson until he has a run of games or a transfer window or the end of the season - but considering the position we were in should this assessment not begin now?
No Sunderland fan wants to spend a third season in League One and with roughly two thirds of the league campaign remaining the scrutiny on our progress has to start now.
We have more than enough time to bridge the gap to the top two, we have a decent base to build from and a transfer window to make the required changes - Parkinson will be judged on the same criteria as Jack Ross where anything less than promotion will be deemed a failure.
One thing is clear, Parkinson needs results... quickly.