Updated: Mar 13
I’m fed up. I should start with that admission because, let’s be honest, what I write will probably be swayed by my feelings about the shambolic, effortless, clueless performance against Bristol Rovers.
But while the anger still flows, let me be clear on where we are and why it isn’t acceptable.
And let’s not get distracted (to be fair I did too) by what many said was an incredible run in January and February. It was a run of games that showed we have the players to win games in this division, I stand by that. It was a run that showed we had some fight and were prepared to go toe to toe when necessary. It was a run that showed that, as long as we were given the space and time on the ball, we could beat teams in League One. It was a run that showed that Parkinson had a tactic that could work in this division, I just wish he had a second tactic.
It was a run (from Doncaster away on the 29th December to Bristol Rovers on 22nd February) that saw us win 9 and draw 2 of 12 games. But here’s the thing. We were tricked into thinking we were doing better than we were by beating Wycombe, Ipswich and Doncaster who we thought were our rivals, but were, in fact, teams heading to the mid table obscurity we could well end up with if a corner can’t be turned quickly.
Parkinson’s win record stands at around 37% at Sunderland. Interestingly 37% is his most successful run in management since 2009 and pretty much in line with his career average. And is isn’t actually that bad. It’s solid top ten form. And you can see why. He will always win a good chunk of games with his teams because of the way he sends them out. They’re fit and they play in a set formation with no variation. As long as the other team don’t try anything clever, results will follow. Enough to get us top ten year after year.
He also had the huge advantage with other clubs he’s managed that you don’t have to factor in the other team raising their game. Rovers last night upped their game from recent performances. Our fans bring an atmosphere that brings decrepit old grounds to life. The (once) mighty SAFC visiting etc, etc. Bristol Rovers raised their game. We did what we seem to do every week. If it works, great. But against better teams and teams playing above themselves, it won’t.
I’m not suggesting managerial change or anything dramatic like that, I’m pointing out that a month and a half of decent results shouldn’t distort the true picture. Parkinson is a League One manager who might get us into the play offs this season. If we don’t quite make it then next season, we might make the play offs. Before long we can stop worrying about teams raising their game because we’ll be that team who used to be in the Premier League once. Like Bradford or Swindon or Blackpool.
We simply must not accept the position we find ourselves in. We must not accept that beating Milton Keynes away and hammering recently non-league Wycombe at home is good enough for this club, because if you start to accept it, it becomes the normal day to day and everyone else at the club will too, the players, the backroom staff, the people running the club (obviously we don’t have any of them but that’s a different article).
The fans must keep pressure on the club to get us back to where we should be. We expect higher standards and a greater commitment from everyone at the club. Parkinson blamed the referee last night. After a career at this level he must know that poor officiating is a given. You also can’t blame bad pitches or two games a week. His job is to make sure we deal with those things as well or better than the opposition. League One is where we are and if we don’t want it to become the norm we need to get out of it, you don’t do that by blaming referees or unlucky ball bounces.
Last night the club sent no player out to the media. Why not? It was dreadful, horrible, inappropriate to play as we did but at least have the guts to face up and admit it. Now is not a time for the players to hide or for the club to say, ‘don’t worry, stay in the changing room’.
Equally it’s not a time for us to hide either.
We need the club to act like a Premier League club who happen to have fallen on harder times, not a League One club who used to be famous.
Don’t accept top six in League One. Don’t accept that transfer window we just had as ‘investment’. Don’t accept the lack of direction from the board. Don’t accept the results coming out of the academy. Don’t accept a manager who thinks one tactic is enough for this club because he got away with it once at Colchester.
I for one am not prepared to accept where we are.
Where we are is, literally, unacceptable.