Phil Parkinson and Chris Maguire nominated for League One awards after Sunderland's remarkable January turnaround
Phil Parkinson and Chris Maguire have been nominated for the League One manager and player of the month awards after Sunderland went unbeaten in January.
The Black Cats had been languishing in the lowest position of the club’s history after a 0-0 draw with Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day, a game in which some supporters at the Stadium of Light had chanted at the final whistle for managerial change.
Sunderland beat Doncaster Rovers in a superb display days later and carried that form into the new year.
Though the 2-0 defeat to Portsmouth on the first day of this month was a significant setback, their haul of 14 points from six games in January has reignited their promotion ambitions.
It has also secured Parkinson’s position on Wearside, with the Black Ctas boss recently insisting that he was relishing the challenge and the pressure that comes with the promotion push.
"You've got to be thick-skinned as a manager and you've got to be resilient," Parkinson recently told Sky Sports.
"But you've also got to find solutions and respond [to criticism] in the right way, and I think we've done that.
"I didn't take the criticism (from fans) personally, I understood it's the sheer passion in the city for the club, and they're passionately behind us at the moment and we want to keep it that way.
"People speak about pressure a lot, but for me pressure is staff and players not being paid for months at Bolton. That was very difficult to go through. This is enjoyable, I am enjoying the challenge every single day."
Parkinson is up against Portsmouth’s Kenny Jackett, Rotherham United’s Paul Warne, and Doncaster Rovers’ Darren Moore.
Maguire is up against Portsmouth’s January signing Steve Seddon, Peteborough United’s star striker Ivan Toney and Doncaster defender Tom Anderson.
The 31-year-old scored three times and contributed three assists as he bids to earn a new contract.
“I had a word with the manager when he came in and he said that I could get fitter and that it would benefit me and the team,” he recently said.
“I have put a lot of work in after training on my own to get fitter and sharper, and at the moment it is paying off – hopefully it can continue.
“I am out of contract in the summer and at the moment I am playing for my future. I want to stay here for as long as I can, so it is up to me to prove to people I deserve the right to be here.
“This is a great club and I have enjoyed every moment that I have been here. For me, I have got to work hard to get to where I want to be.
“It's up to me, no one else can do it, but it’s nice to have the backing of the manager. He has questioned parts of my game and I have had a think about those and knuckled down to show that I can still learn at this age.”