'He'd be fantastic': The Phil Parkinson insight Sunderland fans will love as ex-Bolton boss linked with appointment
Phil Parkinson is the heavy favourite to succeed Jack Ross at Sunderland - but what can the Black Cats expect if the 51-year-old is appointed?
Parkinson has been without a job since leaving Bolton Wanderers in the summer, and counts Colchester, Charlton, Hull and Bradford among his former clubs.
Andrew Davies played under Parkinson during a productive spell with the Bantams - during a spell he dubbed ‘the best years of his football life’ - and has offered Sunderland fans an exciting insight into what they could expect if the highly-experienced manager is handed the reigns.
Parkinson’s mantra is simple - work hard. It’s a basic requirement, but one which Davies believes can often go unheeded in modern football - and something Parkinson is keen to instil in his players.
“I think his big thing is work rate,” said the centre back, who is currently without a club after leaving Dundee in the summer.
“It’s easy to say that everyone should work hard, but these days it’s not very easy to get the modern generation working hard. Young players think that it’s all right to do skills, tricks without any of the busy work that you need to get results.
“Phil was massive on that, he swore by it. He had some good players, and when he got those good players working hard we were a really strong team.
“That was probably his forte - getting those good players and tricky wingers to track back and help the full-backs. That was his biggest trait, for me.”
Also key to Parkinson’s success at Valley Parade was his man management, which saw him help nurture the likes of Nahki Wells and Oliver McBurnie, among others.
“He was fantastic,” said Davies. “There were little things in how he was around the place that made you feel good. He knew how to big you up when you did well, and it didn’t matter who you were or what you did but if you weren’t doing well he’d tell you straight.
“As a player that’s what you would prefer rather than a manager who was just telling you that you were doing well and then you start to lose your way as your standards drop. He definitely didn’t let your standards fall.”
Davies’ struggles with injuries have been well-chronicled, but Parkinson helped ease the defender’s workload in order to maximise his contribution on the field.
Similar tactics may prove useful on Wearside with Duncan Watmore and Aiden McGeady among a number of players who may need handling carefully.
It was small touches such as these that the former Hartlepool United man believes separates Parkinson from other managers.
“He looked after me in my career,” admitted Davies. “I had a lot of injuries and he basically just said that if he could get me out on a Saturday and keep me ticking over through the week then that’s all he wanted.
“That’s man management. I’ve had managers where they say you have to train and you think you’re just going to get injured.
“He understood each individual, what they needed through the week and knew how to go about it.”
STYLE OF PLAY
Parkinson’s sides are unapologetically direct - but Davies is keen to stress it’s far from hit and hope. Instead, it’s a calculated move which Parkinson feels can prove effective.
“We had Nakhi Wells and James Hanson up top and because they were playing so well, we were very direct,” added Davies.
“We went long to Hanson, he’d flick it on and Nakhi would score.
“It wasn’t just that, there was a philosophy to it as well. It wasn’t just ‘boom boom boom’ - yes, you start by playing long balls but when it drops down in the final third, we had tactics and ways for our wingers to get the ball in the box. It wasn’t all just long ball.”.
WHAT ABOUT SUNDERLAND?
So what will the 51-year-old have in store for the Black Cats should he be handed the job? Promotion from League One is a near-necessity but Davies believes that Parkinson - who has previously led Bolton to the Championship - won’t be daunted by the pressure on his shoulders.
“He’s a good manager and I think he’d be fantastic for Sunderland,” he said. “He’ll want to get them organised, get them in a shape and get them working from that shape.
“He’d be very good and it’s not just himself. Phil has his assistant, Steve Parkin, who I think a lot of and I’d be surprised if he isn’t with him. Even the fitness coach Nick Allonby who is now at Bolton, he’s someone who I thought was fantastic. It’s not just Phil, it’s his team of staff who work well together and that’s why I think they’ll be a success.”
“The aim is to get promoted, he did it with Bolton and he can do it with Sunderland.”