KEVIN Phillips says Sunderland will have a scrap on their hands at Selhurst Park tomorrow as Crystal Palace target the Wearsiders for their first win of the campaign.
The Black Cats’ goalscoring legend, now 40 and enjoying his swansong Premier League season, has warned Sunderland it would be fatal to come down from the North East with any sense of complacency.
And he says no-one should be too surprised if newly-promoted Palace get their season up and running at the expense of Paolo Di Canio’s men.
Phillips told the Echo: “We’ve got a decent side and we haven’t been too far off in the couple of league games we’ve played so far.
“Our first game was against Spurs at home and we only went down to a disputed penalty, and then Stoke was a typically tough game at the Britannia, but again we only lost by the odd goal.
“So there hasn’t been much in it and we think we’re getting there.
“The Sunderland game is definitely one the club has targeted because home form is so important to newly-promoted sides.
“And when the club looked at the first few opening fixtures – Spurs you might catch on the hop on the first day, followed by Sunderland, Swansea and Fulham – there was a feeling that there were definitely points there for the club to pick up.
“In terms of Sunderland, they’re a team that have had a lot of changes over the summer and are still getting used to playing together, so that might work to Palace’s benefit.”
Phillips, scorer of 113 goals during six years spent at Sunderland from 1997-2003, admits he is looking forward to Palace’s game at the Stadium of Light in March in the hope he will be involved.
But he says tomorrow’s visit of Sunderland will still be special to him personally.
He said: “I think everyone knows what a great time I had there and how special it was.
“I think the last half-dozen times I’ve gone to the stadium, I’ve expected it to be my last visit.
“This season I genuinely think it will be.
“But I’m looking forward to the Sunderland game tomorrow. Obviously I’ve to be professional and perform to the very best of my ability to get Palace the best result possible.
“But I’ve still got a great attachment to Sunderland and I’m looking forward to seeing the fans.
“Sunderland are one of the best supported teams in the capital – there’s a very strong London branch as well, and they always make sure there’s a cracking atmosphere at any ground they visit.”