AS with much else pertaining to Sunderland at the moment, any assessment of Phil Parkinson’s suitability to be the Black Cats’ new manager hinges on your opinion of what the club currently is, and what constitutes a realistic target for the next couple of seasons.

If you believe that Sunderland remains one of English football’s biggest draws, a ‘sleeping giant’ waiting to be shaken from its slumbers and restored to its former glories with the wave of a magic wand, then Parkinson’s appointment is hardly likely to excite.

Not when Roy Keane is out there, biding his time in the ITV studios as he waits for the call that will enable him to complete his unfinished business on Wearside. Or when Sam Allardyce is trudging into the talkSPORT studios to pontificate on the Premier League while secretly harbouring ambitions of managing in League One.

Aren’t they the kind of big-name managers Sunderland should be attracting? Not in the real world. Not when Keane is earning millions from ITV while Parkinson has reportedly accepted a salary of around £200,000-a-year to succeed Jack Ross at the Stadium of Light, and not when Allardyce has publicly dismissed the idea of seeing out his managerial days in the third tier. Sunderland looked into the possibility of making a move for Nigel Pearson, but even he balked at the idea of plying his trade in League One.

League One. Whether you like it or not, that is reality of Sunderland’s current situation. They are a League One club, with League One players, paying League One wages. Admittedly, they are at the upper end of the scale on all three measures when posited against the rest of the clubs in the division, but just because they’re attracting an admirable 30,000-plus to every home game, doesn’t mean they can ignore the reality of their diminished standing when they are attempting to recruit a manager.

Sunderland are a League One club desperately trying to extricate themselves from the division. That was the mindset Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven adopted as they set about the recruitment process that ended with Parkinson’s appointment, and it explains why they ended up settling on the Stockton-raised 51-year-old as their preferred choice.

From the very start of their search, they concluded this was not a job for a novice. The emotional allure of appointing Kevin Phillips was always obvious, but for all that he has dipped his toes into the world of coaching, Sunderland’s legendary former striker is completely devoid of frontline managerial experience. ‘Ah yes,’ some will cry. ‘But so were Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard when they moved into management’. True. But they weren’t taking over a League One club already eight points adrift of top spot after just 11 matches, for whom promotion this season is regarded as an absolute must.

With every season that passes, it becomes harder for a club like Sunderland to haul themselves back into the Championship. Results tail off, crowds begin to drop, the budget is slashed further and the squad becomes weakened as a result. Before you know it, Sunderland are the next Coventry City or Portsmouth, a lower-league club people vaguely remember for once having had some reasonably successful times.

It has been argued by a number of supporters on social media that ‘exciting the fans’ should be the number one priority. That’s fine, but the excitement of appointing someone like Phillips would soon disappear if Sunderland were to spend the next three seasons in League One. The best way to generate a sense of excitement is to win football matches and secure promotion, and once you accept that mindset, you are inevitably drawn to the tried-and-tested in the third tier.

Paul Cook boasts a compelling CV, but was always going to be extremely difficult to extract from Wigan Athletic, a Championship club with greater financial muscle than Sunderland can currently muster.

Daniel Stendel won promotion with Barnsley last season, but has just experienced a messy divorce from Oakwell. The view from within Sunderland’s recruitment team appears to be that he needs time to recalibrate, time the Black Cats do not have.

Nigel Clough has performed wonders at Burton Albion, but struggled whenever he has been tempted to leave the Pirelli Stadium. Gareth Ainsworth was regarded as a leading candidate throughout the recruitment process, but ultimately opted to remain at Wycombe despite interest from both Sunderland and Millwall. Rightly or wrongly, he seems to think he is on to a good thing at Adams Park.

All of which left Parkinson as the leader of the field. He has achieved three promotions in his career, leading unfashionable Colchester United to the Championship in 2006, guiding Bradford City into League One in 2013 and steering Bolton Wanderers into the second tier in 2017. All three promotions were achieved despite a difficult financial landscape, and all saw him transform the fortunes of clubs that were struggling when he joined them.

There have been wobbles along the way – spells at Hull City and Charlton Athletic were much less successful – but Parkinson’s track record in the bottom two divisions undoubtedly merits respect.

He is regarded as a good organiser, and after the messy end to the Ross era, it could definitely be argued that is what Sunderland need. His promoted sides at Bradford and Bolton boasted the best defensive record in their respective divisions, and Parkinson is likely to set up his Sunderland team in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with an onus on being organised, resilient and defensively secure. That might not set the pulses racing initially, but in the lower reaches of the Football League, it is generally a decent bedrock for success.

He tends to favour a physical centre-forward – come in Charlie Wyke – and likes natural ball players on the wings. In that respect, he is not too dissimilar to Ross, but whereas Sunderland’s previous manager tended to play with the handbrake on, their new boss has seen enough League One football to know you have to play on the front foot if you are aspiring to achieve promotion.

Perhaps it will not work, and if Sunderland fail to go up this season, Parkinson will be regarded as a failure. With some justification, plenty of supporters will be queuing up to say, ‘I told you so’.

Even so, the man that penned a two-and-a-half year deal this morning looks a solid League One appointment. And while some might not like it, in Sunderland’s current position, with a takeover seemingly dead in the water, that is exactly what the club needs.