PHIL PARKINSON insists he wants to progress through to the next round of the FA Cup as he prepares to take a Sunderland squad to Gillingham without ten first team players.

The Black Cats boss has revealed he will be taking seven Under-23s performers to Priestfield tonight with the intention of them helping secure a second round date.

And with key defenders Jordan Willis and Joel Lynch missing through injury, swelling the hefty number of absentees further, Parkinson feels he has been left with little choice but to take a youthful and inexperienced party down to Kent.

Jack Bainbridge and Brandon Taylor are the likelier to start because of a shortage of defenders, while Parkinson could also hand some action to Bali Mumba, Ruben Sammut, Lee Connelly, Anthony Patterson or Cieran Dunne if the game pans out that way.

But the Sunderland manager does not want the approach to be viewed by supporters as the game doesn’t matter, as he would like to reach the next round regardless of who is playing.

Parkinson said: “It’s great for them, it really is.

Parkinson added: "Just to have them in and around the first team, it lifts the lads with their enthusiasm, they are desperate to be involved in first team football. They just have to take that if it comes.

“It is a necessity because of the situation, players have been carrying things. We have had to shut down to make sure players are right for the league games.  “We have lads on international duty, the long terms with Elliot Embleton, Lynden Gooch and Charlie Wyke too. The young lads are needed and if they get that chance they need to take it. With no weekend game, we had a Saturday off. I don’t think anyone would have expected to be off.”

Clearly Sunderland’s league position is much more important than a run in the FA Cup, with Parkinson appointed to deliver promotion at the first attempt of Jack Ross’ failure last season.

He has suffered four defeats so far since taking over, five if the penalties defeat to Oxford is included in the EFL Cup, and last Tuesday’s embarrassing 3-0 reversal at League Two strugglers Scunthorpe United left a bitter taste.

The Sunderland fans who were still at Glanford Park at the final whistle met it with chants of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ and Parkinson feels there are reasons for that defeat. That said, though, he has used the free weekend to have more meetings with the players he has inherited to outline what he wants.

“A lot of what we spoke about was about us in general, how we want to play, what we do in certain periods of games,” said Parkinson.  “A lot was based around the game at Gillingham where we didn’t start as we would have liked. While you can’t do a great deal on the training ground with a lot of games, you still need to show the players what is expected.

“It was a very low dressing room last week and is when you get beat in any game. The lads have pride in what they do, so does myself and the coaching staff, you don’t play a game and not want to represent the club as you want to.  “The supporters pay good money to watch us and it was mitigating circumstances at Scunthorpe, we had one centre half playing when he shouldn’t, another came off, and a defender sent off. We still should have won that game, even if we have no divine right to win that game.”

While Parkinson must come up with a way to send out a team capable of winning without so many first teamers, he is boosted to have striker Will Grigg available again after illness.  Grigg has not done as well as he would have liked since moving from Wigan last January but he has a fresh chance under a new manager now to prove why he was one of the hottest forwards in League One before his move.

“Will had a sickness bug last week. He trained Friday and Saturday and the last two days too. He is looking better,” said Parkinson. “Will is an important player for us. We have to keep working with Will, explain what we want from him. There is more to come from Will Grigg and we have to guide him in the right direction.  “Will’s finishing, we have done some finishing with him in the last few days, it is excellent. He is a clinical finisher and we have to get him with the ability to get him in positions in games.  “We have looked at that as a team. His concentration levels when he is in those positions is excellent. That’s a fact because his goal record backs it up, he has goals. We have to work with him to get something out of him, he is a key player.”

Midfielder George Dobson will also be missing at Gillingham as well as Jon McLaughlin, Tom Flanagan and Conor McLaughlin, who are all on international duty.  Parkinson said: “In any game you have to go to win it, we will certainly do that. That is the key."