Former Sunderland striker gives honest view on Phil Parkinson's troubled tenure so far and the dilemma for Stewart Donald
Former Sunderland striker Stephen Elliott believes a poor result against Blackpool on Saturday could leave Stewart Donald with a major decision to make on Phil Parkinson’s future.
Parkinson has endured a torrid start to life on Wearside, winning just two of his first twelve league games.
Sunderland have been dumped out of three cups since the former Bolton Wanderers boss replaced Jack Ross, and the 1-0 defeat to Gillingham left his side 11th in the league table.
Fans have been vocal in calling for change, with Parkinson facing chants of ‘sacked in the morning’ during the last game at the Stadium of Light, a 2-1 defeat to Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion.
Anger only grew after the defeat to Gillingham, with Duncan Watmore and Aiden McGeady playing no part in an insipid 1-0 defeat.
Chris Maguire also played a minimal role in the defeat, brought on in the 89th minute after Connor Ogilvie had scored the game’s only goal.
Elliott, who won promotion to the Premier League with Sunderland under both Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane, believes the team are significantly underperforming and are leaving the club with much to ponder ahead of the January window.
Donald has pledged to back his new manager in that month, with Charlie Methven, who will offficially resign from his role as Executive Director at a board meeting today, previously told supporters at a talk-in that there could be as many as five new additions.
“He hasn’t been in charge for very long but he’s had a lot of games in that short period of time band we’ve not seen anything in the team to suggest that he’s the guy to get the job done, to get the club competing at the top end of the table,” Elliott said, speaking on the Echo’s Sunderland AFC podcast.
“It’s harsh but football is a results-based business and if he doesn’t get a result against Blackpool, you’d be seriously looking at it as the owner, do you do something now or wait until January to give him the funds to do something.
“At the moment, he hasn’t looked up to the job.
“When Jack Ross went, a lot of people were saying it was probably the right thing to part ways with Jack and me included, he probably had run his course a little but.
“But that was provided the club had a plan in place and that the replacement was going to make the team better.
“If anything, over the last 11, 12 games, it’s been a lot worse. It’s been really poor to watch.
“I watched the Gillingham game, the lads up front didn’t get a kick, they looked last and I felt sorry for them,” he added.
“For me, going to Gillingham and playing like that, there’s players in that squad that are capable of much better than what they’re producing at the moment.
“McGeady, Maguire, Watmore, these players in the right system can be the difference in this league.”
Sunderland’s forward line has been badly misfiring this season, with Aiden McGeady still the club’s top scorer with six goals.
The Black Cats have been increasingly struggling all over the pitch, however, and after the latest poor result Elliott believes that Parkinson may have to rethink his approach.
In particular, he called on the Sunderland boss to ensure that his dressing room is united after bruising period of poor results.
“It’s a combination of both [tactics and players underperforming].”
“For me, you’re looking at the way the team are set up to play now and you look at the squad, the likes of McNulty, Grigg, McGeady, Maguire, they can’t enjoy playing in that system.
“It doesn’t suit their style of play and it’s up to the manager to recognise the players he has.
“Implement his own ideas, yes, and I’ve no problem with managers having their own way of playing, but the results haven’t been good enough.
“From the outside looking in, the players just don't look united,” he added.
“Teams that have won promotions and cups, you can sense the togetherness and looking at the body language, I don't see it with these players.
“That comes down to the manager, you've got to get that right and if there are cliques developing, you've got to sort it.”
Sunderland will face a Blackpool side who have won six of their last eight games in all competitions, beating local rivals Fleetwood 3-1 in their last outing.
It will also mark the first time Blackpool boss Simon Grayson has returned to the Stadium of Light since his infamous sacking just minutes after a 3-3 draw with Bolton Wanderers.
Grayson had managed just 15 league games at that stage following the departure of David Moyes after relegation from the Premier League.
*You can listen to Elliott’s appearance on The Roar podcast in full here, as well as on iTunes, Spotify, Acast and Google Podcasts.