Kevin Phillips says Sunderland need to address Ross Stewart's contract situation amid Rangers, Middlesbrough and Norwich links

Kevin Phillips says tying Ross Stewart down to a new long-term contract should be one of Sunderland’s top priorities this summer.

Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 11:12 am

The Scottish frontman, who joined the Black Cats from Ross County in 2021, scored 26 goals during the 2021/22 campaign but has just a year left on his contract at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland are protected by a clause which allows them to extend Stewart’s contract automatically for a further season, until the summer of 2024, while the club want to reward the Scot with a new deal.

SPL side Rangers have been credited with interest in Stewart, along with several Championship clubs including Norwich City, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United.

Kevin Phillips (left) and Ross Stewart (right)

When asked about Stewart’s impressive campaign, Phillips, who scored 130 goals in 235 Sunderland appearances, told the Echo: “I think the priority is to get him tied down on a long-term deal.

“He’s been outstanding this season and for me he’s got everything. He can run, he can hold it up, he can score goals, he can head it.

“Technically he’s very good as well and his workrate is excellent so he’s certainly a player that Sunderland need to get tied down.”

Phillips was also in attendance as Sunderland beat Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 in the League One play-off final at Wembley, ending the Black Cats’ four-year stay in the third tier.

The former Sunderland striker was appointed manager of non-league side South Shields earlier this year and knows what promotion means to the area.

“I was there. I was celebrating with the players afterwards as well at the team hotel,” added Phillips when asked about Sunderland’s win at Wembley.

“I have clearly still got an affiliation with the football club and now living in the area I know what it means for the football club.

“Everyone concerned was buzzing and they thoroughly deserved it on the day and they have deserved the two play-off games as well where I thought they were the best team.

“I’m delighted for them that they are back in the Championship at last.”

Phillips also believes the club should offer head coach Alex Neil a longer deal on Wearside.

The Scottish head coach signed a rolling 12-month contract in February and has lost just one of 18 matches since taking charge.

“He’s done a fantastic job so get him tied down as well,” added Phillips when discussing Neil’s impact at Sunderland.

“The club is moving forward, they are in the Championship now so they are the sort of people they need at the football club.

“His record when he went in was just phenomenal and he tweaked a few things.

“When you listen to him in his interviews and speak to him he’s very calm and knows what he’s doing.

“You can see that in the way Sunderland played under him and every player knew their job and they did it to the maximum of their capacity, that comes from the manager and his staff.

“I know the players really enjoy playing for him.”