Sunderland finally took the plunge and appointed Phil Parkinson this morning, bringing to an end the brief period of instability caused by Jack Ross’ departure.
The former St Mirren boss got his marching orders after a 2-1 defeat against Lincoln City, with the former Bradford City boss Parkinson replacing him. The 51-year-old was the manager of Bolton Wanderers earlier in the season but left amidst their growing financial crisis.
He kept the Trotters in the Championship at the expense of Sunderland in 2017/18 but could repeat the feat last season with limited means. After achieving success with Bradford, Colchester and to a degree Charlton, he’s now got the task of steering the Black Cats out of League One.
Can he do it? Our top writers discuss.
JG: “Well Roy, they’ve gone and done it. Sunderland have appointed a new manager. It’s an interesting one, I think a few of their supporters wanted a big name; Roy Keane and Sam Allardyce were the ones in the frame. I’m not sure that would have been a great idea, they don’t need to have a marketable manager, they need someone who can get them out of this division.
“I fear that there’s a sense of expectancy around the Stadium of Light which isn’t entirely justified. I understand they’re a big club who should be playing higher, nobody disputes that, but their squad isn’t streets ahead of everyone else. It’s easy to say ‘£6m worth of strikers’, but McNulty hasn’t done it outside League Two, Grigg had one decent season in League One with Nick Powell providing the bullets and Charlie Wyke is a lower league journeyman. They needed a manager who could get the best out of those three, didn’t they?”
RT “Absolutely spot on. League One is very competitive this season and no club, however big, has a divine right to get out of the division. I like Sunderland fans, they are passionate and turn up in their thousands home and away every week and I sympathise with what they have been through in recent years but until they really come to terms with their current situation they will struggle to return to the Championship.
“Parkinson is a pragmatic appointment based on his knowledge of what is needed to get promotion. He will need to get to the bottom of the Grigg conundrum quickly and get the others firing too but above all else, he needs to instil some fighting qualities in the team and stress that they need to earn the right to play. League One gives no respect to reputations and the players and the fans need to come to terms with this.
“Do you think they currently have enough quality in the squad to get promotion this season?”
JG: “I do, but it depends on how they’re deployed and if the fans give them time. Here’s a harsh fact; they won’t win the division playing nice football. Won’t happen. Why? Because everyone wants their scalp. Everyone wants to get at Sunderland and whilst they try to play nice passing, they’ll get outfought every time.
“They’re also short on genuine flair. Aiden McGeady is a good player, but where’s their Marcus Maddison, their Siriki Dembele, even their Bruno Andrade? Who has the pace and flair to get down the line time and again? Lynden Gooch? No.
“They’ve got decent central midfielders and if they can find a way to make a 3-5-2 work, perhaps they’ll do better. Pack the midfield with ball winners, keep the flanks tight but look to use the attacking quality of Max Power in behind a front two.
“The big factor though is the fans, if they get on the new manager’s back straight away, he’s on a hiding to nothing.”
RT: “Totally agree, one of the issues at the club in recent years is the number of managers they have got through. Stability is needed and they should give Parkinson chance, if they don’t and things once again go bad, you have to wonder in the future whether any decent manager would be willing to take the club on.
“I think the period between now and Christmas is crucial if Parkinson doesn’t keep them in touch with the leaders things could get very problematic for him very quickly judging by the negative reaction to his appointment on social media.”