Kevin Phillips offers his verdict on Sunderland's promotion hopes, Lee Johnson and the win over Portsmouth
Kevin Phillips says that Sunderland look ‘very strong’ – as the side target a return to the Championship.
The club legend was part of the Sky Sports punditry team for the Black Cats’ win at Portsmouth, and was full of praise for the players and new head coach Lee Johnson following the triumph.
Goals from Charlie Wyke and Jordan Jones proved enough on the south coast, and Phillips felt a 2-0 win was a result befitting a strong Sunderland performance.
"I think they’re deserved winners,” he said
"I think Portsmouth were pretty poor to be honest, but Sunderland dealt with everything they had to. They were very professional and took their chances.
"The tempo of their football at the moment, and actually the football they’re playing at the moment – I was there last Tuesday and it surprised me.
"They play out the back, they look very comfortable. They’ve got McGeady who is a player bang in fire and Charlie is probably the outstanding striker in the league.
"All those components together and the players they can bring on, they look very strong at the moment.
"When you’ve got quality players in possession, you’re going to hurt any side in this league,” he continued.
"It just shows the quality of the squad that Sunderland have got.
"These players are on good money, it’s the biggest budget in League One, so they should be where they are – challenging for the title.”
Johnson has impressed since his arrival, leading the side on an eight-game unbeaten run while also implementing a front-footed style of play.
And while Phillips has been impressed with the way Sunderland have played in recent weeks, he knows only thing will matter come the end of the current season.
"I know that club inside out, and it’s just about getting them out that league,” he admitted.
"You can go in with your philosophies, your game plan – it’s finding a way to win with the players you’ve got.
"Lee knows that and he’s experienced enough as a manager to know that.
"Managers have tried and haven’t got them out that league. A new owner comes in and he demands promotion, and he’s finding a way to win.
"The players look like they’re playing for the manager and everything is rosy at the moment.
"But we all know that football can change very quickly.”
Phillips also had praise for Luke O’Nien, who was named as Sky Sports’ man of the match.
The former Wycombe man has been deployed as a makeshift central defender in recent weeks but once again impressed at Fratton Park. helping the side to a third straight clean sheet.
"Luke O’Nien is a really versatile player,” said Phillips.
“I've watched Sunderland a lot over the last few years and he’s played everywhere. I think he’s only not played in goal.
"He’s one of those players that every manager likes in his side; you can put him anywhere and he adapts.
"He looks like he’s a quick-learner.”