This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
It is fair to say that Phil Parkinson has experienced a baptism of fire at Sunderland, and he already faces a big task to turn around the fortunes of the club, and the team.
So far, he has overseen nine games but was probably left satisfied with just one performance, the 5-0 victory over Tranmere. Aside from that there have been defensive woes, inconsistency in attack, and a general lack of fight.
Nothing epitomised the latter more than the team succumbing to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat against League Two Scunthorpe after Luke O’Nien was dismissed around the hour-mark.
Another example is the manner of recent losses, and the number of narrow defeats they have racked up away from home against smaller sides like Wycombe, Lincoln, Shrewsbury and Gillingham on Tuesday night, and though they had similarly poor results last year, the team is certainly missing something this season.
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One notable absence is Lee Cattermole. Not only did the 31-year-old work hard in each game he played and demand the same from his teammates, but he led by example and his influence would be significant for the current squad.
Phil Parkinson would also benefit from his presence. He’s a player who understands the club and is in tune with the players can act as a vital source of information and advice, particuarly in this adjustment period.
The former Bolton boss does have experienced players to call upon in Aiden McGeady and Grant Leadbitter, and the latter shares a similar knowledge of the club to Cattermole, but unfortunately is also unreliable on the pitch, as his SofaScore rating of 6.5 against Scunthorpe suggests.
Despite that, it is an option the new boss may consider as he desperately needs something new to change the club’s fortunes.
If Parkinson can begin to instil some self-belief into his squad and a spirit of never giving up then the tight defeats could begin to turn into draws and wins, and with more confidence in the side Sunderland’s chances of promotion may begin to look more realistic.