Sunderland news: Kevin Phillips delivers verdict on Black Cats ace ahead of run-in


Sunderland’s hopes of achieving automatic promotion to the Championship this season are currently hanging by a thread following back-to-back defeats to Charlton Athletic and Wigan Athletic.

Currently five points behind Peterborough United in the League One standings, the Black Cats simply have to get back to winning ways this weekend in their clash with Blackpool if they are to have any chance of securing a top-two finish next month.

Given how poor his side were at the DW Stadium, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Sunderland manager Lee Johnson decides to make a number of alterations to his starting eleven on Saturday.

With Conor McLaughlin a major doubt for the Black Cats’ showdown with Blackpool due to injury, Luke O’Nien may be utilised at right-back again instead of in the heart of defence which is where he has predominately featured this season.

After featuring for the first time since February against Wigan on Tuesday, Bailey Wright may line up alongside Dion Sanderson at centre-back when his side visit Bloomfield Road.

Making reference to the defender’s return from injury, pundit Kevin Phillips has admitted that it could give Sunderland a much-needed boost in their push for promotion.

Speaking to Football Insider about the 28-year-old, the former Black Cats striker said: “It is definitely a big boost to have Wright fit, especially for the run-in.

“You do not want to have to make lots of changes so hopefully he can stay fit for the remainder of the season.

“There is still an opportunity to go up, whether that be automatically or in the Play-Offs.

“Wright’s return will certainly help their push for promotion.

“You need your best players fit at this stage of the season.”

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Although Wright was unable to prevent his side from slumping to defeat at the hands of Wigan, he has enjoyed an impressive campaign to date in League One.

As well as averaging a WhoScored match rating of 7.04 which has only been bettered by three of his Sunderland team-mates this season, the Australian has won 4.4 aerial duels per game and leads the way at the club in terms of clearances (5.1 per match).

Whilst it may take Wright a couple of games to get back to his very best due to a lack of match-fitness, there is no reason why he cannot play a major role in helping the Black Cats achieve their goal of promotion.

By picking up a victory over a Blackpool side who are currently fighting for a play-off place in League One, Sunderland could put rivals Peterborough under a considerable amount of pressure heading into the closing stages of the season.

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