PHIL PARKINSON is not someone who is easily riled. During a managerial career that has encompassed lengthy spells at Colchester, Charlton, Bradford and Bolton, the Sunderland boss has seen just about everything there is to see in the lower reaches of the Football League.

Yet speak to the 52-year-old about the “injustices” that will be driving the Black Cats on this season, and it is clear that the events of the last six months have cut deep.

First, there was the farcical manner in which the EFL called time on the 2019-20 campaign, robbing Sunderland of the opportunity to compete for a promotion while simultaneously rewarding a club like Wycombe Wanderers, who voted for an immediate cessation in the knowledge that their play-off place would be guaranteed.

Then, a couple of months later, a majority of the 24 clubs in League One voted to introduce a salary cap that limits every club in the division to a maximum annual wage bill of £2.5m. Sunderland, with their 30,000 crowds and £20m annual income can only spend as much as Accrington Stanley, who struggle to raise £2.5m a year.

Parkinson chuckles when he is asked to reflect on the twin setbacks, but beneath his jovial exterior, it is clear a fire is raging. Given the underwhelming manner in which his appointment was greeted, the Lancastrian arrived at the Stadium of Light with something of a point to prove. As his players prepare to kick off the new campaign with a Carabao Cup game against Hull City this afternoon, the drive to right a few wrongs has grown even more intense.

“We had a meeting on Tuesday about the pre-season and going forward, and I said, ‘There is no group of people who will be hungrier than us this season’,” said Parkinson. “We had the opportunity taken away from us last season, and the financial landscape in this division has changed from now on.

“So, there’s got to be a real desire and a bit of anger in us to go and show everybody that the EFL were a little bit unfair. We’re not going to look back and let it affect us, but there is a bit of a siege mentality in the group, and a desire to show everybody that we’re willing to go right to the wire this season.”

When last season was curtailed, Sunderland were sitting in seventh position, only outside the play-off positions on goal difference. However, because they had played a game more than most of their promotion rivals, the EFL’s decision to end the season on a points-per-game basis meant they were never going to have a chance of finishing in the top six.

Had they not conceded a last-minute goal in their final home game against Gillingham, they would have been okay, so when the EFL raised the possibility of extending the play-offs to reflect the tightness of the top-half positions, a glimmer of light appeared. Immediately, though, the door was slammed shut.

“The frustrating thing is that we got told by the EFL that they were going to extend the play-offs because of the tightness of the division and the fact that not only could people still get into the play-offs, but the top two was there for the taking as well,” said Parkinson. “They themselves said that could happen, then the following week they changed tack.

“So, yeah, there was a definitely a feeling that we’d had the opportunity taken away from us. That’s gone now, but we’ve got to use it to drive us on this season.”

Similarly, the decision to introduce a flat salary cap was forced on Sunderland, even though as arguably the biggest club in the third tier, they stand to lose out most. Once again, the Black Cats suffered from the self-interest of a majority of their rivals.

“Every team in the EFL has a vote, and I could write down now the ones that were always going to vote it in because they’re the ones who will benefit from it,” said Parkinson. “I’ve said from the start, and I stand by this 100 per cent, it was voted in for the benefit of those particular clubs, not for the long-term good of English football.”

Sunderland (probable, 3-4-3): Burge; Willis, Wright, Flanagan; O’Nien, Scowen, Power, Hume; Maguire, Wyke, Gooch.