The appointment of Phil Parkinson marked a low point in the memories of most Sunderland fans. Unable to come to terms with the reality of our financial position and our unfavourable appeal in League One, most people’s expectations led to them be completely underwhelmed at the revealing of the former Bolton manager as Sunderland’s gaffer.
Starting off with a restless fanbase already impatient and on his back, early results quickly soured things further with a scant run leading to the club dropping to the lowest league position in its history and seemingly, out of the promotion challenge in League One already. The fallout created a toxic atmosphere, with people calling for the managers, and for that manner the owners head, in weeks.
However, a week is also a long time in football. Suddenly, things changed.
After the dismal result of 0-0 at home against his former team Bolton, the Black Cats went on to defeat Doncaster Rovers, and after a draw at Fleetwood score sweeping victories against Lincoln and a thumping of league leaders Wycombe at the Stadium of Light.
The team appears completely different across the board and very quickly, some supporters have acknowledged they are now eating “humble pie”. No longer are Sunderland AFC stumbling in the lower echelons of League One, but are actively pushing for promotion again. Confidence is back, and things for the time being look more comfortable.
What made the difference?
First of all, Parkinson is an experienced manager in league one having won promotion from the league before with Bolton Wanderers. He knows what is needed and what it takes to succeed at this level. Whilst it is very much still early days, many people did not give him credence for this and it’s understandable given how sour things looked.
He needed time to make adjustments, and whilst we were not prepared to give him that, it appears that has made the difference. People note now unlike Jack Ross he has found a consistent style and system that works, which is making the victories all the more decisive.
Parkinson also appears to have changed something about the attitude of the players, which were souring under Ross and the first few weeks of his tenure.
There was all talk of a “lost dressing room”. Now, people can see increased fitness and determination from the squad. Players such as Chris Maguire, who appeared in that notorious McDonalds photo and underperformed for quite a while, appear to have gained a new burst of energy and form. For now, it’s all playing off on the pitch.
What looked like a doomed season has quickly and swiftly resuscitated itself.
But of course the question is, now what? And will it last? One can be hopeful but never quite certain. But we have a window of opportunity to push forwards that is of course the January transfer window!
It still seems highly unlikely Stewart Donald will offer a great deal spending wise so Parkinson will have to eye out some bargains. Kyle Lafferty will offer some experience up front, but we’re desperately in need of replenishing a depleted a midfield too with many departures in this area.
Despite the improved performances, the chairman itself still needs to rectify the concerns and doubts of fans. If he is serious about selling this club and financially stabilizing it, then promotion is the best way to do it.
Nevertheless, one thing is for sure the situation has changed and things are back in our hands now. The fight is not lost and the season is not doomed. We underestimated Phil Parkinson in the short term. We didn’t give him time and we didn’t give him support. Now we owe him both of those things as we endeavour to kick on.
Another good result at MK Dons on Sunday and we’ll be absolutely flying, as if none of this predicament ever happened. Football is a funny thing at times.