Sunderland really ought to have beaten Bristol Rovers at the weekend.
There isn’t really any sugar coating it - if we are to get promoted this season then we can’t afford to drop points against the likes of a distinctly average Bristol Rovers side.
So as fans, we are quite rightly questioning where we are heading as a team. Yes, there is plenty happening off the pitch which has dominated the Covid-19 induced stoppage in League One action since March, but now it’s time for the talking to take place on the pitch, and Sunderland started the season with a whimper.
Does Phil Parkinson shoulder the blame for that? Well I think he has been given the resources to improve the side, even when taking into account a silly EFL imposed salary cap. Yes, we did lose Jon McLaughlin, but he was the only regular starter that departed the club in the summer and was replaced by Remi Matthews, a player that Parky knew from his time at Bolton.
Parkinson’s record at the Stadium of Light so far makes for pretty grim reading. Just the 12 wins from his first 33 games. Over the course of a 46 game season he would pick up 61 points if he kept that average up, that is probably enough to secure a 12th place finish.
Jack Ross on the other hand had a near 90 point average over a 46 game season - enough surely to earn the team a promotion back to the Championship.
Of course, it isn’t necessarily fair to compare the two as Ross was given the freedom to mould the squad of his choosing, and he had the luxury of Josh Maja for the first half of his reign. Even so, Parkinson has overseen an undoubted regression in the play of the Sunderland team since he took charge nearly one year ago.
And that brings us to the crux of the current debate, at what point is Phil Parkinson really under pressure? The consensus seems to be that he deserves a little more time, but if things aren’t steadily improving by the ten game mark, I doubt the Sunderland faithful will be able to tolerate much more.
The fortunate thing for both Parkinson and the current owners, is that there is no crowd at the Stadium of Light to force their decision. I remember being at Peterborough and Lincoln last season, where the away crowd quite obviously turned against Jack Ross and probably made Stewart Donald’s mind up to sack the ex-St Mirren man.
What hasn’t helped the managers case is the fact that Aiden McGeady is sat on the sidelines due to his alleged negative influence on the younger players, yet Parky could not find a place for either Dan Neil or Jack Diamond in his starting XI.
If you are to take the bold move of taking McGeady out of the squad to help younger players, then surely it would make sense to, you know, give those young players a chance!
We have already seen Sunderland lose Bali Mumba for peanuts because of a bias towards ‘experience’ and it could well happen again if we don’t give opportunities to our younger players.
Fortunately for Parky, the lack of crowds means that he has time to turn this around without the worry of negativity from the stands affecting the play on the pitch. He will know that he is under pressure, and he has an important few weeks ahead of him to try and get this Sunderland team trending back in the right direction.