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Why does Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson refuse to take a different tact?

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Sunderland’s one-dimensional tactics this season clearly aren’t working, but the manager seemingly persists in the belief that they will. It’s time to try something new.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

There’s a quote that’s often attributed (incorrectly as it goes) to Albert Einstein; sometimes Benjamin Franklin. It goes something like this: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Regardless of who first uttered those words, I am pretty sure they didn’t imagine that it would apply perfectly to a football manager in the northeast of England in 2020.

Yet, here we are - Groundhog Day. Reflecting on another insipid and desperate performance by Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland.

A game – this time away at Fleetwood – approached in the same manner as so many others and achieving the same inevitable result.

It feels slightly forgotten that this is Sunderland. Six-times Champions of England. The Sunderland of Buchan, Carter, Shackleton, Montgomery, Phillips and Quinn. Not to mention more recently Defoe, Bent, Henderson and Pickford. Those last four in the last 10 years!

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League
Five years: a lifetime.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Remember that, can you remember it?

Here we are now: Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland.

Of course, our club’s demise is much more complex than just being down to Parkinson. In that regard, he is no Lawrie McMenemy. Our recent history is well documented and I accept and acknowledge it – but we should be better than this. Much better.

Parkinson is a man of inherent inflexibility and negativity. A man who stubbornly refuses to alter the shape of a team and, worst of all, he is totally acceptant of mediocrity.

That is what hurts.

A man who substitutes the ineffectual Danny Graham for the hapless Will Grigg and expects a different and positive outcome. Over and over again, it’s the same old formula.

Our sole tactic on Friday night was for O’Nien, Hume or Scowen to launch crosses in the general direction of the twin towers, Wyke and Graham, from 25 yards out. Rinse and repeat, over and over. If it doesn’t work the first dozen times, keep trying – more of the same lads, you never know. Insanity.

Sunderland v Hull City - Carabao Cup First Round
Can we not cross it?!
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Parkinson, who refuses time after time after time to take a chance on youth – despite it being available – instead prefers players who have repeatedly failed over the last two and a half years. He’s clearly hoping if he keeps the faith in his personnel and method it will work - eventually. Maybe. I think we all know that this is highly unlikely.

The same criticisms persist. Yet Phil carries on regardless – the result inevitable and entirely predictable.

He keeps trying, persisting in the belief that Max Power replacing Chris Maguire on 80 odd minutes will bring positive change. One day, maybe, just maybe, if he tries it just one more time. Madness.

The same subs, the same reliance on what now feels like an old guard – doing the same thing over and over. The same Bailey Wright crossfield ball into touch. The same hopeful punts from deep to no one. The same second-half drain of energy and ideas. The same stubbornness from the sidelines.

The same unacceptable but accepted result.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Mediocrity is becoming accepted
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

We know it is flat without a crowd, we know it is difficult working with ongoing ownership uncertainty, we know it’s difficult working with a mish-mash of a squad – but do something different Phil, have a bloody go. Or just go.

This started with a reference to Einstein and will end with a reference to Oliver Cromwell.

“Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God man, Go!”