Sean Brown says...
I was pleased with the players’ improved performance, the return of Gooch was quite triumphant, they fought hard and after all, any win is a wonderful thing, especially after what seems like an age of draws and losses.
I was more impressed with the fans’ performance than anything else. I expected no less from them in all honesty. On the back of all the accusations of “negativity” surrounding the actions of fans and fan groups online the day before the match, the protest against the leadership and the manager, they again proved their critics wrong. They are the beating heart and fiery soul of the club. To see them celebrate the way they did was truly joyous and my highlight of the occasion.
I’d be fascinated to know regarding the players whether this was a response to all the online furore, ructions and rumblings of discontent or simply a PP psychological and tactical masterclass. Were they fighting for themselves? The fans? The manager? The owner? All of the above or just a few? Only they know this, but they were shown a great deal of love and hopefully they can build on that and not fall back into the rut they’ve been in.
As for Parkinson... my thoughts haven’t changed on him because of one result, however grateful I am for it. I don’t see him as being the leader this club needs. Same regarding the ownership; They have a great deal to do to prove that they’re willing to do whatever is necessary to rebuild this club and address the problems it has behind the scenes. They have to make a decision for the fans and ask themselves these questions:
Do they know what is best for this club?
Have they done everything they possibly could to guarantee the security, stability and future of the club?
Do their emotions and relationships with those deemed by many unfit to run departments at a club the size of Sunderland cloud their judgment when it comes to making the necessary changes?
Are they at all capable of turning this around and finally accepting responsibility for where they went wrong?
Are they capable of seeing beyond the short-term with regard to providing firm and consistent direction for the club, increasing investment in club infrastructure, showing their approach to the Academy is a genuine priority, that the scouting policy and network is up to task, and if not, will be improved under them?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then in my opinion they have to leave. Simple as that.
Michael Graham says...
I don’t think that one win and one very good performance can and should change anything, to be honest. People’s view of Parkinson and, as a wider point, Stewart Donald’s running of the club, were formed over a period of time and it’ll take far more than one good result to start altering them.
My own view hasn’t changed at all: I don’t support the protest action, I don’t feel it speaks for me, and I don’t believe it achieve any positive. The club needs unity and stability and all I see a protest achieving is more division and instability. That’s simply my view on it.
That said, I can certainly understand the feelings from which protest action has been borne. I have been as miserable as everyone else watching the decline of our club and it has hurt. It has hurt deeply, and the scars are going to remain even after the good times return.
It was great to see the performance of the players at Doncaster, though, and it shows two important things: The potential for doing well under Parkinson IS there, and the players are still very much playing for him. The latter they showed against Bolton too but, Tranmere aside, Saturday was the first time you’ve been able to look at Parkinson’s Sunderland and say ‘yeah, I could watch this every week’. That feels like an important first step, but a first step is all it is.
As for Sunderland off the pitch... well it’s impossible to detach that from results. If results improve, everything will look better. We have been viewing the off-the-field issues through the prism of anger and desperation caused by what we have seen on the pitch. Remove that, and of course things look better. Results won’t magically fix everything, of course, but it will create the patience to help push through the changes we all know are needed.
The season is far from over. A good January, and we are very much in the mix for promotion. Momentum is everything in promotion campaigns and seasons tend to be defined by how you finish them, not the start of the middle. The teams who peak at the right times are the ones who succeed, with Charlton and Portsmouth last season proving it.
The Doncaster result certainly isn’t enough to make you believe things will suddenly improve, not by a long shot, but what it has done is prove that hope is not lost, and that’s a nice feeling to have back again.
Chris Wynn says...
I’m not sure our football club has ever needed three points more in our history than we did travelling to South Yorkshire yesterday.
Not only did we come away with those much-needed points but for the first time since arguably Phil Parkinson’s first win at home to Tranmere Rovers, we actually deserved them.
Credit where it’s due to the players and the coaching staff, it was a performance above the level of anything we have seen since the new manager's arrival, including that Tranmere game when considering the level of opponent.
However, winning away to Doncaster Rovers yesterday was a bit of an upset. I didn’t expect it, I’m not sure Doncaster expected it, and I’m fairly sure most coupons had the game down as a home win.
This is the crux of the whole thing. Our win and performance is not the norm, on results so far under the new management this is an anomaly.
You could sense that those 4,500 heroes in the away end were determined to enjoy the day and didn’t necessarily expect a result, and when we got one celebrated as we did when we got one of those unexpected wins in the Premier League.
We have a squad capable of finishing in the top six, we should be winning games, and we will win games. In my opinion, this is despite the current manager not because of the current manager, he is not the way forward for our football club.
If we have any ambition to salvage this season and turn adversity into success we need a change in the dugout. That’s where my focus is to get us out of League One, if that means Stewart Donald is to step aside so be it, but he could also act decisively now.
We need to get that swagger back and travel to places like Doncaster having a cracking day out with the football taking care of itself not trying to ignore it because we’re expecting the worst.
If Parkinson pulls off one of the biggest turnarounds that I have ever seen as a Sunderland manager to gain promotion I will be the first to admit I’m wrong, but he hasn’t earned the chance to do so.
Tom Albrighton says...
A true outlier of a game if ever there was one, Sunday’s win at Doncaster - whilst most enjoyable - was entirely a fluke, highlighted by the notion that for 90 minutes Charles Thomas Wyke resembled something of an effective forward and one half of the ’McDonald’s two’ was back to his mercurial best.
As a result and a performance, Sunday was thoroughly enjoyable and one can only assume it was even better for the 4000 who made the journey themselves. However, one swallow does not a summer make - for however good we were, Doncaster were equivalently as poor.
Nothing much then changes unfortunately. A freak result whereby tactically Sunderland changed very little but hit the bonus combination of a poor opposition and a few players form spiking doesn’t mean Parkinson has found the answers to all his issue, though Leadbitter not being in midfield yesterday should be a clue. It also doesn’t heal the fact our recruitment standards are shocking and that people under-qualified in their roles are running one of the largest clubs in England.
The long and short is this. Enjoy the result for what it is, for behind the scenes, nothing has changed. The message must be consistent as should the support showed at Donny.
Damian Brown says...
While it would be premature in the extreme to suggest that the win over Doncaster was a prelude to ongoing success for Phil Parkinson, there are undoubtedly dots that can be joined to show a more optimistic picture of the current state of affairs than is currently the general consensus. Not least of which is the makeup and effort of the team he put out on the pitch on Sunday.
Doncaster did us many favours this weekend; they overhit passes, shots and crosses; they tried to play in the air and failed as spectacularly as we often tend to; they underestimated us, reasonably perhaps. But there is no true consistency to the majority of football, and results can balance on a knife edge, with a hundred factors influencing the outcome. Doncaster weren’t playing well but there’s a 50/50 chance of that happening in every match with every opponent, so we can discount it as an unfair advantage given to us.
Far more important to note is the shift the players put in to achieve the victory, and the evident work ethic on display doesn’t just appear from thin air in a squad that has so far failed miserably to uphold such a high standard week in, week out. As has been stated many times in recent weeks: the buck stops with the manager. In a just world this is as true for good times as it is for bad.
Parkinson set his team up to win on Sunday, and win they did. Tactically it was a simple affair, but most football at this level (and above) shares that quality. The performance of Sunderland against Doncaster was not the performance of a dressing room lost to the manager. The players played to the managers specifications and they demonstrated grit and hunger to do so.
Parkinson didn’t get the best start to life at Sunderland - it was a life that had already claimed the Wearside career of Jack Ross as a casualty, and nothing had changed from the 18 month reign of that man to the entirely new reign of his successor. Key players were missing through injury and it inevitably takes time for a manager to appraise, modify and select his chosen team in the best of circumstances. The powerhouse performance of Lynden Gooch demonstrates his value, and his absence is an example of the initial odds against Parkinson.
McGeady and his displeasure at the status quo, soon to be followed by his imminent departure, is another interesting aspect of this debate. His performances had dropped off some time ago and he became at best mercurial and at worst a liability, as each manager relied so heavily upon him to create chances and score goals. For a while there, if McGeady didn’t score, Sunderland didn’t score. The furore surrounding his expulsion from the squad puts a great deal of stock in McGeady as a household name; he’s the most expensive and best decorated player in the squad - why would he be bad for us?
Without being a fly on the wall in the dressing room none of us can say for sure how much of a negative impact daily player politics had on said dressing room. Quite infamously that space is seen as a base camp of sorts for a team and the benefits of high morale and camaraderie have been highlighted by every professional player in the game.
It was interesting then to note that the absence of McGeady wasn’t detrimental to the performance against Doncaster, but rather the opposite. We didn’t miss him. To suggest this is the sole reason we brought home 3 points is generous, but his absence and a stronger performance across the attack may not be pure coincidence. If it isn’t coincidence, Parkinson can take responsibility for the positive change.
These are just noteworthy points, they don’t paint the full picture and one strong performance doesn’t guarantee a second, or a third. Taken as a possible glimpse into the changes being (painfully) slowly made within the bones of the team, I think the manager deserves as much credit as any of the players. He should receive it.
Ultimately I believe more patience is necessary if we’re to make an educated opinion on Parkinson’s acumen as Sunderland manager. I don’t believe his immediate replacement is necessary, nor can I see any viable reason to believe it would be beneficial, or that giving an as-yet unidentified successor a January transfer window with no chance to prepare for is the lesser of two evils. In my opinion, for better or worse PP is going to be conducting transfer business, and that’s as it should be for any new manager inheriting a struggling team.
Paddy Hollis says...
I think the victory at Doncaster is perhaps one of the most well timed in our recent history.
For one of the first times this season we grounded out a victory and took advantage of genuinely poor opposition. Off the pitch, the win will do nothing other than improve spirits in the dressing room. Only a consistent run of victories to propel us back into the promotion mix will do Donald or Parkinson any favours.
The win was positive for many players who were in dire need of a good performance. If Charlie Wyke could finish he would be a genuine handful in this division, fortunately his inconsistencies in front of goal didn’t cost us on this occasion. It was important to finish the year on a high and the win is one which was needed desperately.