When Jack Ross was given the push I was expecting a completely different type of appointment from the owners - as we all were I believe. Someone to bring back the buzz to matchdays, bring back the hope and those good times we’ve been almost completely starved of in recent years, to the point a hard fought draw against Walsall last season was probably one of the highlights of my year. Not something I ever expected to say... ever.
For reasons they’ve explained and for reasons I could almost understand they opted for a man who didn’t so much inspire hope in the fanbase, as completely destroy any joy we had left. However a few of us persevered in the hope that after an initial period of bedding in and the issues that can cause, he may prove to be a sensible choice who could grind out some results and separate the wheat from the chaff as it were, and given in particular his knowledge of the league and the teams around us, could improve the squad with some clever acquisitions in the January window.
We had those fleeting sparks I mentioned, one being the thrashing of *sighs deeply* the mighty Tranmere, or the resurgence and apparent revitalization of the squad that followed the boxing day game and the resulting unrest. We had a run of wins, and seemed to discover if only looking on the back of said results, that our beloved star winger Aiden McGeady was in fact a hindrance. This was already a debate in some circles but at that point in time where we appeared to win every game he wasn’t physically involved in we credited Phil for a bold, incredibly ballsy and possibly season changing decision.
Now the McGeady debate has many sides, and Aiden himself has spoken out with his side of the story. I’ll leave that argument aside for the moment though as the feeling would creep back as soon as we failed to achieve results against weaker opposition and started to stutter toward the beginning of the current pandemic and the loss of our beloved, and let’s face it, ridiculously stressful pastime of waiting for the almost inevitable feeling of disappointment you come to expect in this era, in this bastard of a league and the one prior to it. I don’t need to describe to any Sunderland fan the feeling I’m talking about.
In short, as far as Phil is concerned I was #ParkinsonIn following his move here as everyone deserves a real crack of the whip, I was #Parkinsonout when it appeared he had absolutely no idea what he was actually doing at all in every area despite a slight defensive improvement that up until the January had failed to yield significant results, then I saw more of those sparks and I was left feeling daft for my not actually giving him the chance I said to myself and others I’d give.
And now... well, now I’m left unsure as to the shape of the future in many ways, and what it may hold for us specifically as a club and a fanbase, more than ever before.
I want to give him that chance, as I still find it difficult to look over his tumultuous and utterly exhausting time here without seeing more in him, and indeed more signs of capability than in the first few months of his tenure. There’s just a nagging feeling that he simply can’t motivate or inspire quite enough to get us up the leagues. So from that viewpoint, he’s simply a risky short term fix to a very serious long term problem.
I don’t think Phil Parkinson will be this era’s hero of the day. I have nothing against him as a man but judging him on not just those five months in charge, as well as his history as a manager at his prior teams, I just don’t have any sense of real belief in saying this man is our route out of third tier obscurity and the damage that is inflicted on the club the longer it continues to attempt to operate in this division.
I haven’t publicly waded into the more recent arguments surrounding the ownership and that’s largely due to the incredible amount of work the lads have done in tying me up editing interviews, presumably for the sole purpose of keeping me quiet.
Its just this has also brought on a period of reflection, as every guest (and there are so many to come) has stated the same point repeatedly, without exception on or off air.
This club cannot be a League One club - it doesn’t belong in League One, or as Denis Smith stated recently, even in the Championship. Sunderland is a club where the entire infrastructure - the facilities, the 49,000 seater stadium, the academy, the players, the staff, the overall financial stability and therefore future survival as a club - is dependent on success. Not moderate success in the third tier, but success however moderate in the Premier League.
This isn’t entitlement either before you start, Charlie boy. It’s blatant to everyone in the wider footballing community and incredibly painfully apparent to a great many of our former players, coaches, managers, chairmen and staff. We cannot achieve such a feat, which has to be our ultimate aim in my personal opinion, with these owners.
So logically if the owners go, so does their man. In that case, and in the hope that something significant occurs to push us into this bright and yet inevitably terrifying new future I think that changes occur regardless of whether any one of us, including Phil and the squad, wants them to or not. And unfortunately for Parky lad, we desperately need that change to occur very soon indeed.
We need hope, we need to look forward and see the light, at the present time all I can see is Charlie’s menacing grin and Stewart’s look of general confusion and dismay, and it’s casting a huge and at times all consuming shadow over everything.
Whether they go or stay and regardless of your own thoughts on them as individuals or as owners and shareholders, we need to be a club that always strives for that light. We need to make appointments based around a long term viable strategy with the sole aim being getting us back to where we need to be and if anyone is truly honest with themselves they can see that Phil, however hard he tries will not be the one building a team ready to take on not only this league, but the one beyond and the one beyond that.
I could be wrong, I could be eating my words in a few years when the legendary Phil Parkinson etches his name into the Sunderland history books and guides us to our hopefully final destination, riding a wave of tremendous adulation... or he could be yet another part of a cautionary tale told to young football fans about the region shattering downfall and total collapse of a once exciting and fearless club from the North East coast, due to the shortsighted and stubborn beliefs of a few lads from Eastleigh.
Time will tell.