Updated: Jul 26
Phil Parkinson is set to be unveiled as the new manager of Sunderland AFC on Thursday in time to take charge of the team against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
Phil Parkinson has had a mixed management career with some real highs and lows, writes Giles Mooney, but will almost certainly be best known when he reaches the end of his career for two things - he is the only manager to take a League Two side to a (proper) cup final and, earlier this season, managed a team of children before finally walking away (understandably) from the chaos at Bolton.
A playing career with Bury and then eleven years at Reading gave him plenty of experience of league one and two football as a physical central midfielder winning multiple player of the year awards, an almost permanent captain’s arm band and the love of the fans.
But then came the bit we’re interested in.
Colchester gave him his opportunity in management and over three years, Parkinson took them from just staying in League One to almost making the play offs and then, in 2006, promotion to the Championship. It was a remarkable enough achievement to attract suitors and, sure enough, within a month of the promotion he’d moved to Hull but, as often happens in those situations, defeat to Colchester and only five wins by Christmas saw him leave after only six months in charge.
Parkinson quickly found work as assistant to everyone’s favourite dancer, Alan Pardew, at Charlton and, just over a year later took the reigns in time to relegate Charlton to League One. Not only is this a positive for all Sunderland fans, he failed over a year and a half to get them back up resulting in his sacking.
League Two Bradford was his next port of call with the League Cup final unquestionably the highlight (though promotion in the play-off final to League One (with Jon McLaughlin in goal) and then getting into the League One semi-finals two years later.
After nearly five years he moved to Bolton Wanderers who had just been relegated to League One. Parkinson had immediate success in getting them back to the Championship but, in a club that was rapidly entering a spiral off the field, he oversaw them falling back into league one and then, earlier this season, he chose to walk away from the carnage.
The simple truth is that I’m not sure whether he is the man to take the club forwards or not. He has had success at Bradford and Colchester but then struggled with the higher pressure of Charlton Athletic (I don’t think it’d be fair to judge him based on the success or failure at Bolton). His teams tend to do well in cup runs but fail in the league and, in my experience, that tends to be managers who struggle to keep players ticking for the whole season but can lift them for one off games.
In a situation where we can’t afford to take a gamble, I think Parkinson is exactly that. It could work well; it could see us fail to move forwards at all. He unquestionably has the experience of the division and in many games, it feels like that’s been lacking and, of course, some of that is very recent experience with Bolton but, for me, I think there are better options with managers with more consistent records.