Stewart Donald rolled the dice with Jack Ross sacking and now Sunderland owner is gambling with Phil Parkinson and the January window

The last time Stewart Donald rolled the dice, Jack Ross was sacked just hours before an EFL Trophy game against Grimsby Town.

Friday, 27th December 2019, 4:04 pm

The consequences of that decision and who replaced Ross was always going to be one of the biggest decisions Donald would ever make during his reign on Wearside.

And it’s fair to say so far it has proved an unmitigated disaster. Not so much the sacking of Ross, many felt his time had come to a natural end.

But the replacement had to hit the ground running, build some momentum heading into a key January window.

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Sunderland chairman Stewart Donald.

Phil Parkinson was the man tasked with leading the club to promotion yet he has won just two out of 14 games, Sunderland are winless in nine games in all competitions, out of three cup competitions and have somehow slipped to 15th in League One.

Let that sink in a moment. 15th in the third tier. Sunderland. A club with such a huge, passionate fanbase and proud history.

For the club to be mid-table - and arguably looking over their shoulder the other way - is nothing short of a disgrace.

Sunderland’s form sees them in the bottom three in the League One form table, relegation form.

Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson.

Sunderland haven’t won in the league since November 2.

Parkinson - with one of the worst win ratios in Sunderland’s history (albeit it after ‘only’ 14 games) - could have few complaints if Donald did pull the trigger.

An Echo poll on our website today revealed nine out of 10 fans, of those that voted, wanted to see Parkinson axed, no surprise perhaps given the outburst from the stands on Boxing Day.

Clearly the issues do not just lie with Parkinson. It is top down. Stewart Donald has made a raft of mistakes in 2019, particularly since the summer.

The failure to sell the club saw recruitment effectively paralysed and left Sunderland moving late in the summer.

Recruitment has not been good enough. The squad is not good enough. Nothing this season has been good enough.

And Donald is now gambling on giving Parkinson - who is under increasing fire from fans - the January transfer window.

Twice now fans have called for Parkinson to be sacked.

Not many managers come back from that. Yet all signs at Sunderland indicate Parkinson will be given the scope and time to strengthen in January.

That is a gamble.

In the build-up to the Bolton game Parkinson spoke about using this busy festive run of games to get closer - or break back into - the top six.

Unbelievably they have gone the other way, slipping two places to 15th.

Parkinson has lost the fanbase. But it would be unfair to say he has lost the dressing room as the players were still pushing right to the end against Bolton to try and snatch a win. But the quality is badly lacking. That much is clear.

It is an expensive business sacking managers, and all the backroom staff changes that also entails, especially when Parkinson signed a two-and-a-half-year deal just a few months ago.

All the signs point to Parkinson getting January to bolster the squad but he can’t currently buy a win.

Sunderland AFC remains a huge attraction but what kind of quality will the Black Cats and Parkinson be able to entice to Wearside next month given the woeful run of results on the pitch?

You can discard automatic promotion and the club is now seven points adrift of the play-offs. It is a desperate situation.

Even with the successive relegations from the Premier League to League One it is hard to remember such a dispiriting time at the Stadium of Light in recent times.

And the January window is a gamble Sunderland can ill-afford to lose.