Is it the right time for Kevin Phillips and Sunderland? The state of play analysed

Kevin Phillips has been repeatedly linked with the Sunderland vacancy in recent years and so it is again.

Tuesday, 1st May 2018, 1:53 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st May 2018, 1:56 pm
Kevin Phillips has been linked with a Sunderland return again

According to the Sun, Phillips it the first choice of potential new owner Stewart Donald to take the helm.

No appointment is likely until the takeover has been approved by the EFL. Here, we take a look at some of the key questions...

Would Phillips be keen?

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Phillips has been clear that he wants to manage the club some day, telling the Echo in 2015: “At some point in my career, I’d love to come back here and manage, but at the moment it’s a learning curve for me."

He still has strong affection for the city and is an ambassador for the Fans Museum project. Last summer he returned to Sunderland to promote the museum and discuss his enduring love for the Stadium of Light as the 20th anniversary of the ground approached.

He told the Echo: "I never really experienced the Roker Roar, I'd obviously heard about it. I was so in awe of this stadium though, and so intrigued to see what the atmosphere would be like.

"Coming from Watford, Vicarage Road, a great stadium but not one with the same atmosphere. I scored on my debut against Manchester City, the noise when I scored it, the roof came off, it was incredible. I was lucky enough to experience many times more.

"To be fair, when I sit in the dugout for our home games at Derby, just before kick-off and you hear the atmosphere, you get the butterflies. You miss that, any player will tell you the same.

"You think back to the goals you scored and the times you had, but the beauty is with the technology now you just have to load up Youtube, my lads are forever on and showing me the goals.

"All I can say is that when the supporters get behind you, and these supporters are magnificent, it doesn't half give you a massive lift.

"These supporters will stay right until the very end, as they did even that year when we were relegated."

Would now be the right time? He has served an extensive apprenticeship at Leicester City and Derby County and worked under an impressive list of managers, in good times and bad.

He has now been settled in the midlands for an extended period but if he is to be a manager then the time is surely approaching.

What about Alex Rae?

Rae has been named as a potential assistant to Phillips should the takeover go through.

He has not been approached as of yet, but like Phillips he retains a strong affection for the club and has regularly returned since leaving for Wolves in 2001.

He has experience in management, having had spells in charge of Dundee and St Mirren. He has also been assistant to Paul Ince at Blackpool and Notts County, as well as to Alex McLeish at Belgian side KRC Genk.

Like Phillips, he would need to be convinced about the funding and vision behind the new ownership. Clearly, that goes for anyone who will be approached in the future.

Rae did tell Betstars in an interview published last week that he thought former team-mate Phillips would be perfect should Chris Coleman leave.

He said: "If Chris goes or the board decide to let him go, then I think the person who could change it around for Sunderland is someone like Kevin Phillips, who has a very good relationship with the supporters – who are quite disillusioned at the moment."

What about Donald?

Donald's vision for the club is not yet clear but he has promised to share it with supporters should the EFL grant him approval to take over the club.

He looks set to have a hands-on role in the running of the club and so it is no surprise to see a host of names he knows from Oxford and Eastleigh associated with the post.

Michael Appleton and Chris Wilder are top of the list and crucially, both have League One experience.

Mick McCarthy is also a football league stalwart with a number of promotions under his belt.

This will be a key call for Donald and his backers. Which manager fits in with their wider vision for rebuilding the club, particularly when it comes to the squad and recruitment? Secondly, do they want an experienced campaigner at this level or gamble on an unproven but exciting name?

What about the fans?

Of the fans polled by the Echo so far, 53% feel a manager with more experience is needed.

Certainly, there are choppy waters to navigate with a major overhaul certain.

Phillips would certainly command a significant amount of goodwill from the support and should be make a successful start, morale and momentum would build rapidly. All would be desperate for a modern legend of the club to succeed.

His name has been mentioned before but those in charge have opted for greater experience.

It remains to be seen whether that proves to be the case again.