Wise Men Say: Sunderland could be bound for yet more disappointment if we don't have a successful January

Bono might not necessarily have been thinking about Sunderland when he wrote the U2 classic One, but with Phil Parkinson four league games into his managerial career on Wearside, you have to ask the question - is it getting better, or do you feel the same?

Monday, 4th November 2019, 4:45 pm
Sunderland midfielder Luke O'Nien celebrates his goal against Southend United.

Victory against Southend United very much followed the Parkinson blueprint - tight at the back, steady going forward. A workmanlike performance with the feeling very much that of 'job done'.

So how are we shaping up for project: promotion? Seventh place, eight points off the top, in good shape, right? Maybe not.

Listen here to the latest Wise Men Say podcast: http://wisemensay.co.uk/ep490/

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David Conlin tweeted us last night, shortly after we had recorded the reaction show, with a league table colour coded by Sunderland results. It proved a point which has been made by many this season - that we have had a soft start and have struggled against the top teams.

Sunderland, under both Jack Ross and Parkinson, have not beaten a team higher than 14th this season. We are the very definition of flat-track bullies in League One this season.

When we finished fifth last season, we'd only beaten four of the eventual top 12. Once again, the lion's share of our points came from the sides in the lower reaches of the division.

Many comparisons are drawn between the class of 2019 versus the class of 2020. Is the side we see now worse than the one that finished fifth?

Position by position, you would have to argue we’re weaker than we were a year ago.

In defence, we’ve strengthened in the middle at the expense of the full-backs. Midfield is a much of a muchness, although having Lee Cattermole in a League One side was always a luxury we could not afford.

Under Parkinson we are at least seeing more of Will Grigg, where effort is being put into servicing the £4million striker.

But he's showing nowhere near the same quality we saw from Josh Maja. We still haven't fully recovered from his departure in January. Before he left his goals papered over the cracks of several poor performances under Ross and the results drying up thereafter was no coincidence.

We're weaker for not having replaced our summer departures better, and for not getting the best out of Grigg. One part of that can be solved in January, but the question marks linger over the second part. And if Grigg can get scoring, will that even be enough?

Could it be that this is as good as it gets for Sunderland?

Listen here to the latest Wise Men Say podcast: http://wisemensay.co.uk/ep490/

Preston North End's victory over Charlton on Sunday placed the Lilywhites on top of the Championship for the first time in 13 years - it was the longest spell any Football League club had spent not in the top spot at any point. The new bearers of that record? Sunderland.

We last topped any football league table in May 2007, when we won the Championship under Roy Keane.

Despite being favourites two seasons in a row, we have not once topped League One.

In terms of stature and history, we're the biggest in the league. But we've not shown any signs of being the best team.

It is very much early days for Parkinson but it's clear that he has his work cut out for him.

This job could be an impossible task with the squad he has at his disposal.

With the expectations of the club, the fans, the board and now the new investors who have shelled out £9million - we could be bound for yet more disappointment in the summer if we don't have a successful January.

Tickets are still on sale for Wise Men Say’s 500th episode celebrations on Friday, 6 December at Fausto Coffee. For ticket information, visit wisemensay.co.uk