In the immediate aftermath of the Phil Parkinson’s sacking, the club finds itself at a crossroads once again. As we reflect on a wasted year with the wrong man, and re-start the annual search for a new manager, one thing should be remembered - It shouldn’t be this difficult.
The playing squad is good enough to get promoted this season. That’s not even saying that we’ve got one of the best three in the league, but good enough to finish in the top six and grind out a couple of results in the play offs. It’s easy to forget that for as bad as we were for long spells last season, we only just missed out on the play offs. This season is still by no means a write off. We remain well within touching distance of the promotion places, with potentially the best player in the division not having played a minute. We don’t need wholesale changes to the side. The defence has shown this season that it can be solid; up front, we’ve got individuals with a proven track record, even if they’ve not shown it in a Sunderland shirt.
You’ve only got to look at some of the teams who’ve been promoted over the past two seasons. The club doesn’t have to be particularly well run, and the relationship between the board and the fans certainly doesn’t have to be remotely positive. The players on the pitch don’t have to be the most expensive, or even individually better, so long as they work well as a unit. The one thing that pins it all together is the manager. The manager’s ability to work a in challenging environment and get the best out of his players is crucial. So long as Stewart Donald and co are still involved at Sunderland, whoever the new manager is will have to be able to do this well.
This is what we thought we were getting when we hired Phil Parkinson. Instead of being able to cope under the pressure, Parkinson appeared to accept the situation, and excused the mediocrity his management oversaw. While a manager can’t be held fully responsible for what happens on the pitch, he is entirely accountable for what he says in his press conferences. He accepted things no manager of Sunderland AFC should. This attitude did nothing to endear himself to anyone, given that even the games we won were generally a chore to watch. At best, we tolerated him, and at worst, he oversaw the worst football I’ve seen Sunderland play.
In terms of his replacement, it’s vital that Parkinson’s successor is someone with success at League One level, ideally used to working with limited resources. It’s hard to look past Paul Cook or Danny Crowley. Having both proved themselves at a higher level, it’s not a given we can get them in. One thing for certain though, there can be no room for sentimentality.
Though the long-term future of the club hangs on this takeover, but we cannot ignore the here and now. The club couldn’t afford to limp for much longer through the season, hoping that things will get better once the club finally changes hands. Ultimately, so long as any new owner can fund the club’s immediate future, whatever additional money they have is irrelevant as long as the club is subject to a salary cap.
It’s not exaggerating to say that the future of this football club could rest on this next appointment; then again. That statement loses its meaning when we’ve said it several times in the last four years.