David Preece: Tough times brings pressure on managers as I found out under Keith Hill at Barnsley but Phil Parkinson deserves credit for turning tide at Sunderland

Fifteen points from the last seven games is exactly the kind of response you want from a side who were looking bereft of confidence and form previous to that.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 5:28 pm
Phil Parkinson deserves praise for the turnaround at the Stadium of Light.

In most of my analysis, particularly of goalkeepers, I’m often accused of being slow to be critical, so it’s been a surprise to be called out for being too negative over the past few weeks.

You’re never always right and have everyone in agreement with you but I thought most of it has been fair given the long leash I’ve afforded the club in the past.

So when things are looking up, however temporary it may be, credit has to be given.

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Winning games and picking up points in games when not all is well puts everyone in a more forgiving frame of mind and just as a goalkeeper’s job boils down to keeping the ball out of the net, winning games is what football also boils down.

There’ll still be some who say that rather than given praise for a return to form that this just a run that meets the minimum of expectations, turning around a situation that seemed to most as desperate, deserves a pat on the back.

A run of bad form and events can lead to the situation becoming like a runaway train.

The faster it goes, the more difficult it is to arrest. More often than not it becomes irretrievable, ending in relegation, a P45 or both.

Until that happens though, the only way to get through it is to grab hold of what you can affect, put all your efforts into that.

The subject of ownership rolls on (it wouldn’t be the same without it) but Phil Parkinson’s focus should and is only on the controllables.

That might sound like an obvious statement but in the environment that the manager has found himself in, it’s easy to become distracted by events happening around you that are beyond your control.

You’d be amazed how many managers allow themselves to worry about things they have no control over, whether it’s refereeing decisions, instability at board level or the reaction of fans. It’s that last one in particular that can be make or break in the mentality of a manager.

Tough times bring pressure and that can show itself in many ways.

Managers can crack under it, be it in the confines of the dressing room or on the training pitch and paranoia takes over.

They begin to think that anyone in the dressing room who isn’t a close ally is an enemy and it’s a position I’ve been in.

Playing away at West Ham when I was at Barnsley, Keith Hill accused me of leaking our starting eleven to Sam Allardyce because I’d been talking to Winston Reid who I knew from my time in Denmark. Of course, it wasn’t me and when he found out who it was, he got his assistant to smooth things over by phone.

Other managers become embroiled in what the fans are saying and there’s been more than one who have allowed themselves to be affected by that. It’s futile though, as even the most celebrated managers can’t appease everyone.

I’ve heard of managers event getting printouts from fan forums and social media and allowing it to make their blood boil.

All that does is cloud your judgement and the moment players can see their manager is rattled it can be damaging.

There’s been plenty to contend with in his short tenure so far and the questioning has been mostly just.

It comes with the territory but it’s how you deal with it that matters and since the Bolton game where the tide seemed to have irrevocably turned, Parkinson and his team have defied the tide.

He’s an experienced campaigner and certainly having to deal with chaos behind the scenes at previous clubs will have stood him in good stead for us and whether it’s a true change of fortunes or pressure induced lift, they’ve given themselves a fighting chance and put us in the running again.