After Phil Parkinson’s side predictably fluffed their lines on the opening day of the season, the voices of discontent could inevitably be heard loud and clear.
On paper the easiest game of our opening four League fixtures of the 2020/21 season, nothing less than three points was quite rightly the expectation for fans, players and staff. This had to be the springboard to our start of the season, an opportunity to put down a marker before the pressure shifts up a gear against promotion hopefuls Oxford United, Peterborough United and Charlton Athletic between now and 3rd October.
A draw at home isn’t the end of the world, but the level of performance, especially in the first half after the encouraging signs of improvement against Hull, has deflated any bubble of optimism many fans had for the season ahead. One game clearly isn’t enough to judge how a season will pan out, but after the final whistle against Bristol Rovers there were already calls for Phil Parkinson to be replaced.
A full Stadium of Light may have given a more realistic verdict on the feeling towards the performance and result than a reactionary social media, but the manager has been involved in football long enough to know that his results at Sunderland since taking over in October 2019 have not been good enough.
If one game of the new season isn’t enough to judge a manager, then could we argue that eleven months is long enough? Do we discount last season’s failure to cement a play-off position from a starting point that would have been ultimately rewarded with an invite to the play-offs?
There is always the argument that this isn’t Phil Parkinson’s squad, but how many managers last long enough to lead a group of players they can call their own? In the modern game, the job quite often boils down to being able to improve the team using tools they have at their disposal. Considering only one of the starting XI against Bristol Rovers did not make an appearance for Sunderland last season, this is clearly Phil Parkinson’s task at Sunderland.
If the argument is that he needs more time, then how long does he need exactly? The ex-Bradford City and Colchester manager has had almost a calendar year to work with these players, to install a system and a way of playing that suites them, and in the first forty-five minutes against Bristol Rovers we looked like a team who had just met up for the first time.
After failing to break down a mediocre opposition, the pressure now dictates that our next three games against fellow promotion hopefuls are vital. Looking at the fixtures when they were released it was inevitable we would find ourselves in this position so early in the season.
With the position the club finds itself in, it’s likely that Parkinson’s time at Sunderland will be stretched to its limit. However, we could well find ourselves one year on from his appointment as manager further from our goal than when he started, which is surely an unacceptable state of affairs that will make his position untenable.
For many fans, that might not come soon enough.