On the 13th October last year I was asked to write an article about Phil Parkinson becoming our new manager. I said at the time that I felt there were better choices available and that the appointment was a gamble.
Looking back at that article now I remember hoping I was wrong and that the gamble would pay off. Sadly, the evidence is the opposite. Apparently I shouldn’t be negative after two bad games. Two? We drew against Bristol Rovers because we didn’t have the firepower to score against a poor bottom half team (though nearly snatched a winner when Power smashed one against the bar in the last couple of minutes). A month and a half on and exactly the same has happened again. Yes, we stopped teams scoring but so did Accrington.
Against Peterborough we were lucky to get off the pitch 1-0, against Swindon we were very lucky not to concede a penalty just after half time which would have pulled it to 1-1. Under Jack Ross the criticism was that we got a goal and tried to hold on to it, sat deeper and then drew too many games. What has changed? Nothing. Actually, if anything, it’s getting worse.
Parkinson has managed Sunderland 41 times and has a win percentage of 41%, Ross had a win percentage of 51%. Interestingly, that is the second best win percentage of any club Parkinson has managed beaten only by his opening years at Colchester. Ross’ 51% is his worst spell in professional football.
Maybe that’s why Parkinson was so positive about last night’s performance. Perhaps in his world we should be happy that we nearly passed to each other and that we had two or three shots on target in a half where we looked the better side. Yes, we looked a better side against a team who have 18 year old loanees playing their first professional games and players signed from Chorley starting for them but we didn’t look like a side who wanted to compete as much as them or knew their jobs as well as they did. I for one don’t want to live in Parkinson’s mediocre isn’t bad world.
The manager’s post match interview made sense if you were trying to protect a young inexperienced team, trying to accentuate the positive (or lie about there being a positive). Our squad includes experienced players, players who’ve played top flight and international football. They don’t need bluffing by a manager out of his depth, they need honesty and strategy. The likes of Wright, Willis, Leadbitter, Graham are players who’ve enough behind them to know what is right and what is wrong. And last night, our attacking potential all season, our tactics, our team selections are very definitely wrong.
The biggest danger for our club was always that we started to behave like a League One club, started to accept that an away point was OK and that we shouldn’t expect too much. It seems that, internally, the club has started to behave in that way. If something isn’t done soon we’ll become a club hoping for a successful year in the Papa John Cup and maybe a playoff spot.
I would say, as I have for a year, that Parkinson isn’t the right man for the job but the need to replace him is on a long list of jobs I’d like to see filled in the club, from chairman to academy director to first team manager to CEO. I fear that, until new owners take over, owners interested in taking the club forwards rather than owners keen to tell their friends they own a football club and employing their Poundland friends, any new manager would be walking into a burning building. The club needs rebuilding from the bottom to the top and everyone from CEO to the first team manager needs to be honest about that when speaking publicly and putting their own hands up and admitting it’s not good enough, anything short of that and the ever decreasing circle of league one stability becomes closer to our new reality.