PHIL PARKINSON is confident he has walked into a ‘financially stable’ club after agreeing to become Sunderland manager, and has received assurances there will be money to spend in January if he needs to improve his current squad in order to secure promotion.

Parkinson took charge of his first training session as Black Cats boss yesterday morning after signing a two-and-a-half year deal to succeed Jack Ross, and will be leading from the dug-out when his new side travel to high-flying Wycombe Wanderers tomorrow afternoon.

The Stockton-raised 51-year-old has appointed long-term associate Steve Parkin as his assistant, with the pair having left their previous positions at crisis-hit Bolton Wanderers at the end of last season.

Like Bolton, the Black Cats have tumbled down the leagues in the last few seasons, but whereas the Trotters were on the verge of liquidation before the Football Ventures group completed a successful buyout earlier this summer, Parkinson is confident the financial picture on Wearside is much brighter.

A mooted takeover involving US-based financial group MSD Partners appears to have collapsed, but while Stewart Donald continues to seek outside investment as he attempts to drive Sunderland forward, Parkinson has been assured there are sufficient funds to ensure there is no chance of a repeat of the circumstances that developed at the University of Bolton Stadium.

“Obviously, it (the financial position and a possible takeover) gets mentioned when you meet the board, and I was pleased with the assurances I was given,” said Parkinson, who attended matches at both Roker Park and Ayresome Park as a child as he was brought up on Teesside. “They’re dealing with that side of it, and they want me to just focus on the football.

“I was talking to Steve today and we both said when we left Bolton, we were really relishing an opportunity to manage somewhere where we could come in on a morning and just discuss how we are going to set up training or what we will do to get the points at the weekend. As you all know, the talk at Bolton was more about the finances and players not getting paid.”

Sunderland’s financial position could still be significant, especially when it comes to Parkinson’s ability to make changes when the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year.

With talk of a takeover having gone extremely quiet, it had been feared that Donald would not be in position where he could make significant funds available at the turn of the year unless money was generated by sales.

Parkinson will spend the next month-and-a-half assessing the strengths and weaknesses of his current squad, and in an ideal world, he will get to January with Sunderland ensconced in the promotion positions and not requiring any reinforcements.

However, if there are gaps in the squad that need filling, he is confident he will be presented with the necessary funds to make improvements.

“That was discussed in terms of going forward, but it’s a case of let’s get to January and see,” said Parkinson, who is reportedly earning a basic annual salary of around £200,000. “Once you’re in the building, that’s when you can see what you feel about the squad.

“There’s a real desire within the club to be successful, and these months coming up are about assessing the squad. I’m sure if we need reinforcements in January to give us a boost, the board will give me the backing.”

For now, though, Parkinson is looking forward to working with a squad he regards as one of the strongest in the division.

Jack Ross was dismissed because Sunderland’s owners could not see any marked improvement from last season, when the Black Cats missed out on automatic promotion by six points before losing at Wembley in the play-off final.

Finishing in the top two this time around is Parkinson’s remit, and he does no shy away from the reality of the position he has inherited. Achieve promotion, and he will be lauded as a success. Miss out, and he will inevitably be branded a failure.

“I think everybody knows the expectation at a club the stature of Sunderland is to get promoted,” he said. “I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t believe I could achieve that with the squad that is in place and the backing I’ll get from the board.

“It’s got to be the ambition. You’d be crazy if you spoke to a potential manager and they said they were happy to tick along nicely.

“They want someone who is ambitious, has achieved promotions before and knows what it takes to get over the finishing line. I’m going to be working very hard to hopefully achieve that.”

Parkinson has become Sunderland’s 12th permanent boss in the last 11 years, and as the club has slid to the lowest position in its history, so its managerial position has become something of a poisoned chalice.

Nevertheless, the allure of becoming the person who turns the club around and restores it to something approaching its former glories endures, and Parkinson cannot wait to tackle what he regards to be the biggest job of his career.

“It’s a great opportunity to get this club going again,” he said. “The attraction is clear for everybody with the size of the club’s fan base and the quality of the players, and in a few years’ time, I want to look back and say I was the manager that got this club off and running again.

“That process has started. We were unlucky last year not to get over the line. My job now is to get an extra ten per cent from individuals and the team to bridge the gap from the play-offs to hopefully finishing in the top two this year.”

Parkinson has previously won promotion to the Championship with Colchester United and Bolton, and has also guided Bradford City to promotion from League Two as well as leading the Bantams to Wembley in the League Cup final.

He succeeded at all three of those clubs on a shoestring budget, but his appointment on Wearside has not gone down especially well amongst the Sunderland fanbase. While the likes of Roy Keane and Sam Allardyce were initially touted as potential candidates, the Black Cats have ended up appointing someone who has never managed in the top-flight. Nevertheless, Parkinson is adamant he is up to the task.

“If a manager was sat here with Champions League experience, supporters could say, ‘Well, he hasn’t any experience of getting out of League One’,” he said. “And that is the priority because of where we are at the minute.”

Donald agrees, and while Richard Hill and Tony Coton, who were leading the recruitment drive, spoke to a number of different candidates, the Black Cats owner is confident he has ended up with the right man.

“Phil has a proven track record when it comes to achieving promotion and I’m delighted to welcome him to Sunderland,” said Donald in a statement. “During a rigorous recruitment process, it gradually became clear that he was the prime candidate to take the club forward. His CV put him on our short list. His references from within the game set him apart.

“I hope that Sunderland fans will all join me in welcoming him to our historic club, as we look forward to an exciting few months.”