Tony Gillan: Nobody knows if Phil Parkinson will be a hit but Sunderland's owners believe he's the perfect appointment

This is a column, as distinct from a report. The difference is that reports are written to provide mere facts, whereas a column is a vehicle for opinion.

Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 6:30 pm
Sunderland AFC manager Phil Parkinson.

The column writer can insult people in a very public manner: then truthfully claim to be only doing the job they are paid for by giving an honestly held opinion.

I won’t lie. It’s fun too.

The problem I have at the moment is that the Sunderland topic de jour, apart from how bad they’ve been, is the appointment of new manager Phil Parkinson; and I can’t offer an opinion.

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Last week, in the course of speculation as to who would try his luck next on Wearside, I wrote the following.

“How excited, on a scale of ‘horror’ to ‘shoulder shrug’, would any of the following names make you? Gary Rowett, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Mark Robins, Nigel Adkins, Phil Parkinson, Steve McClaren.”

I’m less inclined to horror than a shrug at the arrival of Parkinson.

But beyond that, it hasn’t elicited much emotion one way or the other.

That would appear to be the most widely-held opinion, if you can call it that, of the new man among Sunderland supporters. It’s fair to say that Parky-mania is yet to take hold.

His contract of 30 months, suggests that the club’s owners are convinced themselves that he’s the perfect appointment.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and some would have preferred A, B, C or some combination thereof.

I wouldn’t vociferously argue, although those who imagine Sunderland “should have got Allardyce” are occupying their own reality.

Simon Grayson arrived with a similar lack of a fanfare to Parkinson in 2017.

This column said then that if anyone: “Would mind awfully providing the rest of us with the names of those dozens of realistic alternatives who would have been indisputably better, then we’d all be most grateful.”

The same applies now, except the options were even narrower.

Clearly Grayson was a flop.

But to arrive at that conclusion without hindsight was impossible.

Not that this will stop certain types from calling radio stations at the end of this season, claiming that they “said all along” Parkinson would be great/rubbish.

Whatever your opinion of Parkinson, if indeed you have one, you can back it up with historical precedent.

Denis Smith’s arrival at Sunderland in 1987 was met with widespread nonchalance, yet he moved the club up two divisions in three seasons, and as a bonus built the team that reached the 1992 FA Cup final.

However, the delight at the appointments of Martin O’Neill in 2011 and Lawrie McMenemy in 1985 was not quite vindicated.

Of all the managers I remember bowling into Sunderland – and there are regrettably many – there was only one I thought was a dreadful appointment before he had even picked his first team.

Unusually for me, I was proved correct.

Parkinson has had his successes.

He guided Colchester, Bradford City and Bolton to promotions and Bradford to some notable cup successes too.

He didn’t do so well at Charlton or Hull.

In other words, nobody has a clue how he will fare at Sunderland.

So when we find out, pay no heed to anyone who “knew all along”.

And the very best of luck to Phil Parkinson.