Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse and that we couldn’t embarrass ourselves any more - what happens? We see the latest chapter in a rather sad and worrying period at a club which appears to be giving a rather pale imitation of Sunderland AFC.
In April 2018, Burton Albion - one the youngest sides in the Football League - embarrassed and condemned us to the third tier after a 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light. In November 2019, the same club again embarrassed us 2-1 at our home ground, which has possibly helped set the tone for the rest of our 2019/20 season, and at the same time surely made the manager’s position more or less untenable.
Promotion? This word appears to be something of a sick joke right now, certainly on Wearside. If recent form is used as a yardstick, surely the avoidance of relegation or even mid-table safety appears a more realistic objective.
The title of Sunderland fan is a shade embarrassing at present, with our club not just surely the laughing stock of League One, but football in general. We have manager who’s surely out of his depth after having overseen a rather alarming decline in form since his rather questionable appointment, a mish-mash of a squad which with the exception of maybe a handful of players is seemingly not fit for purpose, while questions surely now have to asked of the hierarchy regarding the direction the club is taking.
Well, downwards it appears, and at a rather alarming rate.
The evidence against Phil Parkinson is rather damning, what with just two wins and nine defeats from his first eleven games. That’s relegation form without a doubt, while the fact we’ve exited not one but THREE cup competitions within the space of a month just tends to compound matters somewhat. Particularly when we managed, as far as I recall, ONE shot on target in ONE-HUNDRED-AND-TWENTY minutes or so in the FA Cup replay at Gillingham. “It never rains but it pours” as they say.
OK, I don’t think anyone expected Phil Parkinson to wave a magic wand and perform an overnight miracle of sorts (though its looking increasingly like that could well be what's now needed), but surely we couldn’t have expected things to have reached the current alarming level of ineptitude? It has in effect been “the nightmare of all nightmares” in a sense since the new manager came in, and it does put one or two previous seasons of struggle into perspective somewhat - even the ill-fated Mackemenemy season of 1986/87.
To return to the latest horror show against Burton. We were clueless, with no gameplan, no organisation and playing hoofball up to a striker who appears rather disinterested and/or not willing to put in a good shift, a failure to get even the basics right at times.
The list of descriptives is quite endless, doubtless I‘d be on rather a long time if I tried to list them all. Very few positives could be taken from the game, except maybe that Nigel Clough’s side let us off the hook in terms of the final result.
In fact things got so bad that I was disappointed in a way that Burton squandered a great chance to make it 3-1 and put the game to bed and at least put us out of our misery. A thoroughly miserable evening, with the game played at times in a somewhat eerie atmosphere (in fact, even our penalty goal seemed to be greeted with somewhat muted applause), which certainly couldn’t have helped matters on the pitch, but is something which may well become rather commonplace should matters continue as they are.
All of which leads to one or two rather fundamental questions. Just where on earth do we go from here? Can the current dreadful run of form be reversed, or are things likely to get far worse before they get better? Who takes most of the blame for the current scenario? The manager? The players? Hierarchy? Scouting team? The whole lot? And perhaps more crucially, just WHO is going to attempt the rather monumental task of sorting it all out?
One does fear for our immediate future just a little. I’ve heard it said that Phil Parkinson should be given at least until the January transfer window, so he can a) try to improve our dreadful form and b) then try to reinforce and improve his squad.
Should matters on the pitch have failed to have improved by January, would any transfer activity prove to be merely academic, certainly as far as promotion is concerned?
The top two places in League One seem more or less out of our reach even at this stage, and if current form prevails even the play-offs could be looking a distant prospect come the turn of the year. But assuming we’re still in with a shout of promotion come January - and we’ve managed to bring in some fresh blood and offload some deadwood - would the new arrivals make any real significant difference, enough for us to make sustained push for the play-offs?
Quite a few questions then to be answered.
Maybe its just as well then that we have now have a two-week break which could well afford the SAFC hierarchy a bit of extra time, particularly as their ability to run our club has recently been questioned in some quarters. We’ve now reached an all-time low and appear to be sinking faster than The Titanic, thus the next month or so could then be rather crucial.
There appears no evidence to suggest that Phil Parkinson can turn things around, so really we need to be looking at getting in a replacement as soon as possible.
However, perhaps that is easier said than done. Just who would be prepared to take on what has in effect become the poisoned chalice of English football, and would they necessarily succeed where our current manager is failing rather badly?
I guess we have to hope against hope that Phil Parkinson can somehow inject some life, energy and organisation into his rather lethargic and disjointed first-team, at least enough to see us through to January when we can hopefully bring in some much-needed reinforcements. In the meantime, would it not be a good idea to give Kimpioka and some of the other youngsters a proper chance - surely they can’t do any worse than some of the current members of the first-team squad?
There’s no doubt that something needs to be done, and fast, else there's a real danger the current crisis could turn into a full-blown nightmare of sorts, one which may well take some recovering from. It looks then like there could be challenging, difficult and possibly worrying times ahead for all connected with Sunderland AFC.