It’s remarkable how different things can look after a few months in football.
In the latter stages of 2019, Sunderland looked like they were sinking without a trace. Results weren’t coming and Jack Ross’ sacking was beginning to look like somewhat of a mistake.
It represented a phenomenal turnaround, one that hasn’t only been led by Parkinson who was fortunate enough to win January’s Manager of the Month.
If he could, he may well have split the award between Chris Maguire and Nick Allamby.
The duo have been imperative in helping Sunderland lead a mini-revival in League One. Appointed as their Physical Performance coach in November, the latter has ensured the players at the Stadium of Light have improved their fitness levels.
That’s been evident in the way the Black Cats have started finishing matches. Since December 29th, they’ve scored four times in the 78th minute and beyond.
However, no player has arguably benefited more from Allamby’s approach than Maguire. Heading into Tuesday night’s clash against Rochdale, the 31-year-old had scored five goals in his last ten games. Not only that, but he’d also assisted three strikes for his teammates during the same period.
A player who was spotted eating a McDonalds with Aiden McGeady last December, his renewed attitude has been a breath of fresh air. In comparison, his former Irish colleague has been banished from the club and is now struggling for game time with Charlton in the Championship.
Their seasons have gone in opposite directions with the Sunderland forward netting 11 goals in all competitions prior to Tuesday night. That is very much owed to his incredible fitness levels.
Speaking on Monday afternoon, assistant manager Steve Parkin commented: “Chris just has to play with energy. The key thing for us is whether his running stats are right up there – that’s when he’s at his very best.
“We’ve had several games this season where he’s covered a lot of ground, both in terms of sprints and the overall picture of his running stats.”
Building up running stats and the player’s energy is very much down to Allamby. The Physical Performance coach may have only been in the north-east for a matter of months but his work is being felt enormously by not only Maguire but also the rest of the squad.
Fitness levels are so huge to a player, particularly when games are played with such regularity as they are at this level. The appointment in November may have been a minute one, but it’s played a huge role in the improvement of results – that influence cannot be underestimated.