My interest in Phil Parkinson’s career stats started after Saturday’s game when a tweet went semi-viral regarding his record as Sunderland gaffer.
Just how poor his overall record at SAFC is took me by surprise, and it prompted me to look into the finer details of his tenure – and also of those who went before him – to try to understand if Parkinson really is the man to get us promotion or not.
Over this article I’m mainly using points per game (PPG) and win percentage data, comparing Sunderland’s PPG under Parkinson with that of other managers and other teams, and taking a look at where we rank in comparison to previous League One campaigns.
Let’s start with Phil Parkinson’s win percentage as Sunderland manager.
There’s no easy way to say this, but at a meagre 36% it’s unacceptably low. For direct comparison, his predecessor Jack Ross’s win percentage stood at 52%.
To explore further I then took a look at Gareth Ainsworth and Joey Barton; Ainsworth of course linked with Sunderland before Parkinson’s appointment, and Barton who’s been in League One for the past two seasons with us. Both boast a League One winning percentage of 41%.
Of course, win percentages only tell us so much, so let’s compare that to the EFL’s favourite way of ending a football season – PPG.
While some may scoff at the metrics used to bring last season’s League One to a conclusion, it’s evidently a robust method with which to judge a manager and his side.
To illustrate, in the past three League One seasons, the title-winning sides – Coventry, Luton and Wigan – boasted PPG averages of 1.97, 2.04 and 2.13 respectively, therefore meaning it’s safe to say 2 PPG gets you the title.
To finish in the automatic spots, being as close as possible to that figure is extremely desirable too, Rotherham (1.77), Barnsley (1.98) and Blackburn (2.09) will attest to this.
Even when aiming for the play-off positions, maintaining a PPG of as close to 2 as possible is key – with the PPG of teams in last season’s play-offs ranging between 1.74 - 1.71.
It is worth noting, however, that the figures between teams in the play-off places do have a lot of variation, with teams in the past three seasons earning play-off spots with as many as 1.91 PPG and as few as 1.54 PPG.
For contrast, Sunderland averaged 1.64 PPG last season, down from 1.85 the season before.
Of course, last season we made an early managerial change, so it would be somewhat unfair to lump Sunderland’s lowly 1.64 PPG entirely on Parkinson’s door.
Or so you’d think.
Because during Parkinson’s tenure, Sunderland have averaged 1.36 PPG – nowhere near what’s required for a fortunate play-off finish, never mind automatic promotion.
His predecessor Jack Ross, who many claimed wasn’t good enough, boasted a promotion contending 1.91 PPG – a figure enough to secure a play-off place in the last three League One seasons, and a PPG that – if maintained – would have gained promotion last season.
When compared to the other two managers I selected, Gareth Ainsworth has averaged 1.49 PPG in his 300-plus game tenure, while Joey Barton has a very similar 1.50 PPG average. Again, when compared to his peers, against the experienced and the inexperienced, Parkinson is found woefully short.
So, as all things point towards Parkinson failing as Sunderland manager in the current state, it’s also worth exploring deeper into his career and that of the other managers we’ve discussed. Surely things look better for Parky there?
As a manager Jack Ross has a career average of 1.69 PPG (Alloa – 1.38, St Mirren – 1.74, Sunderland – 1.91, Hibs – 1.76) indicating most of his teams have been at the right end of the table.
Ainsworth (1.49) and Barton (1.50) are both one club men, and generally their figures place their sides around mid-table to sniffing around the bottom end of the play-offs.
When taking into account the stature, budget and playing squads of these sides, the PPG returns from these managers are more than acceptable for two clubs operating at or above their limitations.
Parkinson’s had a lengthier career than all of them. However, the current Sunderland manager averages a lowly 1.34 PPG throughout his 17 years as a manager.
He averaged 1.49 PPG at Colchester, 1.46 PPG at Bradford, 1.40 PPG at Charlton, 0.77 PPG at Hull and 1.15 PPG at Bolton, although we’ll give him some leeway given Bolton’s predicament for most of, if not all of, his time there.
Every single club he’s been at has failed to get anywhere near 2 PPG – the target for automatic promotion.
Throughout his career, he has averaged 1.13 PPG, well, well below the numbers required by League One’s biggest, most expensive and most demanding club.
It is these figures that go some way to understanding why Sunderland have struggled so much under Parkinson – he has been challenged to complete a task that his career averages suggest he more than likely isn’t capable of delivering.
And that leads me to my final and possibly the most damning point against Parkinson’s current work at Sunderland.
With his average Sunderland PPG of 1.36 in the last three seasons of League One, Sunderland would have finished 12th/10th/12th.
Simply, not good enough. He’s absolutely not the right man to take Sunderland forward.
All stats from Transfermarkt