Between the horror show at Lincoln that cost Jack Ross his job and our season changing victory at Doncaster just before the turn of the year, each new game represented a ‘new low’ in the history of Sunderland AFC.
From a pathetic surrender to Gillingham, where our manager claimed he’d have ‘taken a point’ all day to losing a ‘competitive’ fixture to Leicester Under 21’s in the Leasing.com trophy, there plenty of dark days as our winter of discontent set in.
It is therefore surprising that my personal lowest point as a Sunderland fan came during a 1-1 draw to Blackpool, who were fourth in the table at the time.
It was even the Seasiders opener on four minutes that drove me to utter despair, it was actually our equaliser that utterly depressed me.
When Charlie Wyke drew us level, I felt nothing and barely even applauded the goal.
Of course, an equalizer at home to Blackpool when you’re in the bottom half of the third tier isn’t going to generate scenes of unconfined joy; but when you’re someone who celebrated a last minute Josh Maja goal against Morecambe in a dead rubber Checkatrade Trophy game by flying down the terraces going mental, not reacting to a goal is almost unthinkable.
The reason for my non celebration was because I was so against Phil Parkinson that it was difficult to know what I wanted anymore.
Obviously, I will never ever actively want my team to lose a game, but things were so depressing at the time, I found it hard to see anyway out of our current situation.
The football was so predictable and one dimensional that I felt that even if we did scrape a narrow win all would do is buy Parkinson more time to hoof our way towards mid table obscurity at best.
Then, in our final game of the decade, something changed and I got the bug well untruly back.
The apathy that I’d felt for months faded away and when Chris Maguire fired us in front I went bezerk, hugging everyone within about three or four rows of me whether I knew them or not and at full time I roared along with 4,000 other diehards who had made their way to South Yorkshire in hope rather than expectation.
I still didn’t get too carried away, but the performance was much improved, we played with an intensity and played on the front foot.
Contrary to popular belief, Sunderland fans aren’t that hard to please and the support responded to a goal on the hour mark which would ultimately see us soar to the dizzying heights of 13th by running on the pitch and celebrating with the players.
Since then we have undoubtedly turned a corner and in consecutive games against Lincoln and Wycombe we found ourselves three goals to the good at half time.
Against MK Dons and Tranmere were ground out wins, but if you are to get promoted it is essential that you find a way to win.
After a disastrous 0-0 Boxing Day draw with Bolton Wanderers we have scored 12 goals in seven games, keeping four clean sheets and conceding just three goals in the process.
This represents a significant turnaround and despite my reservations over Parkinson, I am delighted as the next man with our surge up the table.
However, I make no apologies for calling for him to be sacked, it is revisionist in the extreme to say there were any green shoots of recovery prior to that Doncaster game.
In his first 14 games as manager he had fewer League victories to his name than he had cup exits. Of course, the team’s fitness has improved since then and Lynden Gooch’s return has undoubtedly benefited the team but in the months that followed Parkinson’s arrival he showed no tactical flexibility and we were in freefall.
Two respected ex-pros who Parkinson had managed were both less than complimentary about him and Bolton fans sang, ‘Phil Parkinson your football is shit’ during our goalless draw on Boxing Day.
There was simply nothing at all to get behind and I could only make my judgement on him based on what I saw with my eyes week in week out.
In recent weeks, however I’ve been pleased with how solid we’ve looked at the back as well as our improved attacking threat and Bailey Wright looks to be a shrewd piece of business.
Our next two games will define the second half of our season; win them both and we have every chance of automatic promotion. Lose them and we could see ourselves needing to put together another great run of form to get ourselves back in contention.
As I write this the transfer window remains open, so I may be proven spectacularly wrong, but as things stand we are only a couple of injuries in key positions off being short on numbers again.
Given Parkinson’s previous lack of flexibility and recently hearing a Bolton fan saying that he ‘grinds the life out of a system’ once he stumbles across a successful one, I am cautious about signing up to the Phil Parkinson Appreciation Society just yet.
Having said that, he and his coaching staff deserve a massive amount of credit for the upturn in results and performances and ahead of tomorrow’s trip to the south coast I am nervous and excited in equal measure which, after the apathy I experienced little over a month ago is a step in the right direction.