Tony Gillan: Phil Parkinson deserves praise for his remarkable Sunderland turnaround - but may not get his January wish
Certain sections of Sunderland’s support may have inadvertently given the impression two or three weeks ago that they were somehow dissatisfied with their team’s manager.
Comments such as “On your bike Parky”, “Worst manager since the invention of grass” and “Couldn’t pick the right nose” were taken out of context to present an entirely false sense of disgruntlement.
More representative comments are now being bandied, such as “Manager of the 2020s”, “Arise Sir Parky” and “Phil Parkiola.” Songs are being written.
Fibbing aside, the football phone-ins never face a deficit of fans calling to point out that they had told us so. Those who unhesitatingly call to admit to being completely wrong about something are of a rarer species.
In fairness it was difficult to make a defence for tactics, performances and – most importantly – results under Parkinson until very recently. This columnist joined in with the criticism.
The resurgence of Sunderland, if indeed that is what we are seeing, is being achieved with the same players and formation.
There were only two different starters against Wycombe Wanderers to the 11 that delivered the cobblers we watched against Bolton on Boxing Day; although significantly one of them was the in-form Chris Maguire.
Whatever Parkinson and the players have done since December 26, they deserve credit. League leaders Wycombe weren’t merely beaten: they were dismantled. So were Lincoln City and Doncaster, despite the narrower scorelines.
Now we have the January transfer window. In fact we’re well into it, although I wouldn’t like to guess how much of the £10m borrowed from the FPP group will be spent on players.
The chairman has said “we absolutely will” strengthen the squad this month, and it’s about “Phil getting the team he wanted”.
That’s Phil Parkinson getting what he wanted: not anyone else. This is a happier thought than it had previously seemed, especially when the squad is this thin.
He has already recruited striker and brick outhouse lookalike Kyle Lafferty, which seems reasonable. It’s a start, even if the main interest from the supporters in Lafferty is that his wife is a former Miss Scotland.
The January transfer is usually crucial. It certainly proved so last season.
A great deal of wisdom after the event has been superciliously aired since the departure of Josh Maja and arrival of Will Grigg. Whatever seems “obvious” now certainly didn’t seem that way at the time.
The January 2019 arrivals of Kazaiah Sterling, Lewis Morgan and Jimmy Dunne are less well remembered. Often by choice. They were every bit as good as Jerome Sinclair who had already been borrowed the previous summer.
January 2018 introduced us to Jake Clarke-Salter, Ovie Ejaria, Ashley Fletcher and Lee Camp. Camp is the only one of the four who is particularly remembered, although that isn’t necessarily a compliment.
Will Phil Parkinson’s January transfer window be any better than Sunderland’s previous two? It could hardly be worse, even if his method of selection involves raffle tickets.
Priority in the transfer market? A goal scorer of course. Unfortunately, every club on earth is after a goal scorer. Even clubs who already have one would like another.
So good luck to Parky, but don’t build your hopes up and certainly don’t expect a bargain goal scorer.
There has been one of them since Kevin Phillips.