Sunderland’s performances so far this term have not been great generally, and we have only ground out results with strong rear-guard action. How does Phil Parkinson plan to push us towards the realm of actual promotion contenders?
Parkinson appears to have no contingencies when things are not going to plan, or we need greater impetus, usually in an attacking sense. His usual reaction is to field all of our strikers at once, in some sort of attacking overload – it is comical tactically, and is seldom successful.
This issue is part of a larger problem, and raises the question – why does Parkinson cling to the senior players? They have disappointed and let him down time after time, yet seem to be turned to in times of strife. Most sides in our division use their younger players from their respective setups, and it is frankly baffling that we don’t considering we have a Category One facility!
You can argue about our youth prospects being raw, but how can they hope to improve without being given a proper chance and possibly a run of games? Parkinson told us that we would see the young players who impressed in pre-season, notably Jack Diamond and Dan Neil. Neither have been given a fair run, and Neil has barely even made the bench more often than not.
There is also an undercurrent of young players performing well who aren’t even really being considered such as Josh Hawkes, Mitch Curry, Oliver Younger and prior to injury, Benji Kimpioka.
Kimpioka particularly had been playing with real drive since his return and ironically if he had been involved with the first team, he would not have suffered a costly injury.
What will it take to give some of these lads a go? Many of them possess pace, a trait our first team severely lacks, as well as chipping in with goals at the Under 23 level, against Premier League academies.
One name I haven’t mentioned is Elliot Embleton, who has previously been on the cusp of the first team, after stellar performances on loan at Grimsby and for the England Under 19s.
I’d expect Embleton be involved following his latest injury recovery, which should be a positive thing. What I can’t understand is the logic in persevering with tired League One plodders and failed transfers. Aiden O’Brien, Danny Graham, Will Grigg, Max Power and George Dobson are all a complete waste of space, which these prospects could fill.
At the very least they will be desperate to impress, something which the aforementioned senior players should be embracing.
I once wrote a piece lambasting our handling of the youth teams under Paul Reid. A number of talented players were allowed to leave for paltry sums with little done to persuade them to stay, and this will happen again with a raft of lads simply not getting a chance when we are desperately underperforming.
Even first team prospect turned regular Denver Hume may move on with little noise coming out of the club regarding the extension of his current deal, set to expire in the summer of 2021.
Hume is a prime example of a player exposed to the first team, and has continued to kick on – the damning indictment of this is that he was involved due to our lack of options, not because of his serious potential that he is beginning to realise.
You can lay the blame at Parkinson’s door in terms of his misuse of the options in front of him. Strangely, he has not been averse to playing youth in his other roles, yet hasn’t showed much likelihood of doing it here. Why is that?
A conversation with Aaron Wilbraham on the Undr the Cosh podcast may shed a little light on Parkinson’s mindset regarding his team selections. Wilbraham worked under Parkinson during his spell at Bolton, and he effectively froze out Wilbraham until necessity beckoned.
Wilbraham scored a number of important goals which led to Bolton avoiding relegation that season. Is Parkinson simply a stubborn fool?
The overall youth issue is systemic of the leadership at Sunderland that we desperately wish to say goodbye to, though the reintroduction of Ged McNamee has unsurprisingly led to improved youth performances which has prompted an article of this sort.
You only have to look at Bali Mumba. When he was a Sunderland player, his agreement to sign a professional deal was hailed as a massive coup. He turned out on the first game of the season under Jack Ross’ reign, and did not look out of place.
Following this, he could have been anywhere, such was conspicuousness of his absence.
Fast-forward to the present day, and he has been sold to Norwich for an unsurprisingly small amount, recently receiving rave reviews from his supporters after a great showing at left back. Why couldn’t he have been used, instead of being sold for buttons?
You could say similarly of Logan Pye and Joe Hugill – both received caps for England youth teams around the time we watched them leave.
They are now being discussed as real prospects, with the latter having a feature on Sky Sports’ website regarding his potential.
Surely they both could have been involved in the first team? Manchester United is undoubtedly a massive pull, but what did we even do to keep them?
Parkinson needs to wake up and be bold. We have young players who could give us some edge, pace, unpredictability and most importantly, desire, qualities which are severely lacking in performances of late.
The fact that Parkinson felt Mumba wasn’t good enough or old enough, and has went on to perform well for a side in the league above, should be ringing massive alarm bells. Does he even know who has what it takes? Or does he simply lack bravery?
One thing is for certain, our one dimensional approach to games will prove to be our undoing. There’s only so many games the referee can hand to us and it’s about time Parkinson stepped up and starting taking things by the scruff of the neck, otherwise we are sleepwalking into yet another failure of a season.