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Phil Parkinson deserves full credit for the recent upturn in Sunderland’s form - fair play!

“Perhaps he knew something we didn’t. Maybe his plan simply needed time to come to fruition, which it certainly seems to be now” says Phil West, talking about Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

A superb performance - a statement victory, and now we can begin to look forward with genuine optimism. After coming unstuck during Phil Parkinson’s first game at Wycombe’s ‘house’ back in October, the Lads turned the SOL into the ‘House of Pain’ on Saturday as Gareth Ainsworth’s team were sent scuttling back down to Buckinghamshire on the back of a comprehensive 4-0 hiding.

There were two gales blowing on Saturday afternoon, and one of them was red and white.

This was the kind of performance that we craved, the players needed, Parkinson would doubtless have loved, and one that certainly took this writer by surprise. From the first minute we set an aggressive, no-nonsense tone, zipping the ball around with intent and verve, and not allowing Wycombe to settle. Our passing was incisive, our off-the-ball running intelligent. It was slick, classy, and perfectly executed.

The question is, what has changed? Perhaps Parkinson’s messages are finally getting through. Maybe the players have woken from their collective slumber and realised that there remains a hell of a lot to play for this season. Whatever it was, it made for a superb spectacle, as everything clicked and Wycombe simply had no answers.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It’s always difficult to highlight individual performances on the back of a result like this, because, to a man, the entire team was excellent, but special praise must be reserved for Chris Maguire. Maguire - who has at times swung between king and court jester this season - can be a maddening player to watch, but when he turns it on, as he did on Saturday, he becomes such an asset to the team. His second goal - a free-kick which crashed off the bar and into the roof of the net - was a thing of beauty.

Please, Chris, let’s have more performances of this nature in the games ahead.

Denver Hume also turned in another excellent performance, bookended by his first goal for Sunderland, whilst Lynden Gooch - unshackled and unleashed following Aiden McGeady’s exile - is now virtually undroppable. The American is now playing intelligently, and is causing all kinds of problems for opposition defenders with his attacking instincts.

Another major positive that we can take away from this game is that we now appear to have that most precious of things: a reasonably settled starting eleven.

Our defence appears to be selecting itself, whilst George Dobson and Max Power are now forming a no-nonsense partnership in midfield.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Injuries aside, it’s difficult to make a case for changing the team in the games ahead. These players now seem to be more than comfortable in executing the game plan that Parkinson is opting for, so let’s stick with it.

Speaking of Parkinson, who looked lost and completely bewildered a few short weeks ago, he suddenly finds himself overseeing a revival that has seen us jump from the lower reaches of the table into the play-off positions in what feels like no time at all.

The man is clearly tenacious, and credit must be given to him. Perhaps he knew something we didn’t. Maybe his plan simply needed time to come to fruition, which it certainly seems to be now. When a manager comes through a tough period and manages to turn things around, it’s always great to see, and that is very much the case with Parkinson right now.

This was, in theory, the hardest game we face in January, and we passed the test with flying colours. There can be no excuses going forward, with no cup fixtures and no other distractions. Let’s try and enhance the squad with some new recruits, keep driving forward, and snapping at the heels of the teams in front of us.

Six points off the top with a game in hand is not a bad position to be in, but with more performances like we saw on Saturday, we can certainly achieve a lot more.

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