Phil Parkinson on planning for Sunderland's future with Stewart Donald and growing fan frustration
Phil Parkinson stepped up his preparations for the January window during the clubs’ break from league action and is confident he has the board’s backing to implement long-term changes on Wearside.
Parkinson has managed 11 games since replacing Jack Ross and has just two wins in that time, with performances worsening in recent weeks.
Supporters chanted ‘sacked in the morning’ towards the end of an insipid defeat to Burton Albion, a game that left Sunderland 11th in the table and a remarkable nine points off the automatic promotion places.
Many fans have called for change but Parkinson says his discussions with the club hierarchy have been about a crucial upcoming window.
The break has also seen Parkinson make another key appointment to his backroom staff, with former Bolton Wanderers defender Andrew Taylor joining as first-team coach.
Parkinson says he understands frustration from the supporters but insists unity is required and says he will find the solutions to get Sunderland back up the table.
“I've had chats with the owner and the other directors in the last week or so, about going forward to January and what we need to do,” he said.
“That's what we're working towards.
“The 10-day period gave us a chance to sit down with Tony Coton and his scouting team, Steve and I have been at games, we were at one on Wednesday night looking at potential players.
“Tony has been to games, we're pooling our information all the time.
“That's what it is all about for us.
“Getting [injured] players back out on the training pitch, which we're pleased with, but looking to improve what we've got in January.
“In any season you have, I can go back either as a player or a manager, I've managed nearly 750 games, even if promotion seasons you have periods where things don't go quite right,” he added.
“You've got to dig deep and find a solution, and to do that you need good people with you and above you.
“You need the staff and supporters to stay with you and we need that right until the end of the season.
“Of course, we always understand the frustration of the supporters when you lose a game at home.
“Burton was a strange game because at the start of the second half the ground was right behind us and we had some fantastic chances to go ahead ourselves.
“They break and scored and it was like a switch had been flicked, the players lost their way on the pitch.
“The crowd reacted to that and we've got to learn from it and handle it better.
“My job is finding solutions, I've managed for a long time and managed a lot of games, you've got to be resilient, dig deep and find a way to get back to winning games.”
The pressure is rising as they return to Gillingham on Saturday, a ground where they recently failed to register a shot on target in 120 minutes of football as they crashed out of the FA Cup in the first round.
This recent break without a game has given Parkinson his first opportunity to spend a significant amount of time working with his players on the training pitch, something he is confident will make an impact in a crucial period before the transfer window opens.
He says winning will be the only way to win back supporters and that ‘no one is more frustrated’ by the lack of wins since he took over.
“Winning is the only way,” Parkinson said.
“No one is more frustrated than myself when we lose.
“It's my livelihood, the players, the staff, it takes over your life when you don't get a win and it's hugely frustrating, but after that initial tension has eased a bit you've got to analyse the game and start looking towards the next one.
“It's 20 minutes of one game where we've performed poorly and the crowd have turned against us.
“We deal with that, we've discussed it with the players, we've got help the players through that and we will do.
“It’s been good to have some time with the lads on the training pitch, it really has,” he added.
“We’ve been able to implement the standards and the intensity of the training we’re looking for to take us forward.
“I’ve been pleased with how the lads have trained, it’s been encouraging to say the enthusiasm and desire to work.
“I keep saying it but the lads really do care, we’re ready for action and I’m looking forward to the game against Gillingham.”
In his last public comments in mid-November, Donald insisted he had no regrets about his decision to sack Jack Ross and bring in Parkinson.
“No regrets,” he told BBC Newcastle.
“There was a lot of talk about who we could go for, a lot of names bandied around, and we spoke to some of those that were mentioned and they didn't even want to entertain an interview - whether it's because we're in League One, or this that and the other.
"But of all the people we saw, Phil Parkinson - the responses we got from people within the game about him - he is very highly regarded, and he's got a proven track record at this level.”