Phil Parkinson's plan to revive Will Grigg's fortunes and fix Sunderland's struggling attack
Phil Parkinson has backed Will Grigg to rediscover his scoring form with the 28-year-old set to replace Charlie Wyke for the visit of Tranmere Rovers.
Grigg is still searching for his first league goal of the season, and has found starts hard to come by outside of cup competitions.
That looks set to change on Tuesday night, with Wyke facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to an ankle problem.
Grigg replaced him halfway through the 1-0 defeat at Adams Park, and Parkinson was impressed with his energy and the way he brought team-mates into play.
Though his time on Wearside has been a frustrating one, Parkinson insists it is down to the players behind him to provide the right service and has made it an early priority in his Sunderland tenure.
Grigg missed a handful of high-profile opportunities in the opening weeks of his Black Cats career but this season, they have been increasingly few and far between.
“Losing Charlie Wyke is a blow but we’ve got other players ready to come in and I thought Will Grigg did well when he came on on Saturday,” Parkinson said.
“He showed a good appetite, he’s looked really bright in training and he’s ready, as is Marc McNulty.
“I think with Will, he’s probably felt that expectation.
“I look at it slightly differently, I think we’ve got to create opportunities for him.
“I know that when he first came he probably had quite a few [that he missed], but I’m looking at recent games and I’m thinking, we’ve got to put the ball in right areas,” he added.
“We know the runs he makes in the box and where his goals come from, and we’ve got to make sure the team is in sync with that.
“Is Will going to jump past four or five players and smash one in? They’re one off goals. Strikers get their goals in and around the six-yard box with chances created by players in wide areas.
“We need to supply them for Will, Marc and Charlie when he is fit.”
Parkinson was pleased with aspects of his team’s performance on Saturday, but was left frustrated with an inability to create chances and opportunities for strikers inside the box.
It is something he is determined to rectify and improve as he looks to launch a promotion push.
He identified two half-chances for Wyke and Grigg as an example of what he wants to see more of, quick and early delivery from the wide areas into the box.
“I don't think we can hide away from that [lack of creativity], the stats back it up,” he said.
“It's utilising the possession we have during games and being more effective with that. It's something we're looking at and trying to address in the short time we have on the training ground. We need to create chances for our goalscorers and I'm confident that if we do we have the players who can put the ball into the back of the net.
“I think it’s about giving the lads a bit of direction in terms of what we want in certain areas of the pitch,” he added.
“That will come over a period of time because we’ve got players who can produce.
“Even Saturday, at times we turned down the opportunity to deliver from good areas and came back out.
“We’ve got to look at that because goals come from quality crosses in good areas, and we didn’t get enough of those in the box on Saturday.
“The one we did in the first half, Charlie scored from, albeit he was offside.
“It was a quality ball from Denver, with great shape on it,” he added.
“Then Will in the second half was very close to getting on the end of one, so we’ve just got to work on getting the team to provide those opportunities.
“I feel we’ve got the players to do that.”
Parkinson made a number of changes when naming his first Sunderland side.
The likes of Lynden Gooch dropped to the bench, while Dylan McGeouch was left out of the squad altogether.
The new boss is confident, hwoever, that the squad is behind his vision for the team and how he wants to go forward.
“We just want to be a bit more effective with the possession we have,” he said.
“I think the lads all agree with that, we’ve got some good footballers, there’s two key areas, we haven’t kept enough clean sheets and we haven’t created enough chances for our strikers, who I believe will score goals if we do.
“That’s just logical if you look at that the season to date, and I think all players want to play in a side that’s progressive and excites the supporters.”
Confidence may have been knocked by some disappointing results but Parkinson has urged his players to remain calm.
“I've sensed a determination among the players, they are really desperate to do well,” he said.
“There's a balance to be struck there too, they are desperate to do well but we have to play with a calmness as well and a clear understanding of what we have to do in each and every game.”