Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips says he is becoming increasingly confident that the club could secure promotion from League One this season.
This is now Sunderland’s third consecutive season at League One level, and the Black Cats will be desperate to get back to the Championship as soon as possible.
Tuesday night’s 2-0 win away at promotion rivals Portsmouth means that Lee Johnson’s side have now picked up six wins in their last seven league games, and they currently sit fourth in the third-tier standings, two points adrift of the automatic promotion places.
Now it seems that Phillips is starting to feel as though this could be the year that his old club finally end their wait for a return to the Championship.
Speaking about the Black Cats’ promotion hopes in the wake of that win at Fratton Park, the Sunderland icon told Football Insider: “I’m excited and hopeful about promotion now. I was at the game against Swindon and they played some very good stuff.
“They are starting to see games out and win ugly. They are defending well as a unit at the moment and that is so encouraging going into the business end of the season.
“I’m not getting too carried away because things can quickly change but they are in a very good position.”
Indeed, it seems as though Phillips has been impressed by the impact made by Lee Johnson since his appointment as manager at the Stadium of Light back in December.
Assessing the impact the new boss has made on Sunderland, Phillips added: “Lee Johnson has a settled team and he is picking from the same core of players every week which I think is right.
“Dare I get excited? I am a little bit because they are not a million miles away.
“They still have a huge job to do but Portsmouth was a tough game and they came through it. They are now in a very strong position.”
Did these 15 former Sunderland players leave the club for a higher or lower fee than they joined for?
Sunderland’s next league game sees them travel to the Wham Stadium to face Accrington on Tuesday night, with the Black Cats’ attention this weekend focused on an EFL Trophy final against Tranmere at Wembley.
You can certainly understand why Phillips and others associated with the club may be starting to feel like this is Sunderland’s year.
Looking back through their results, this is about as good a form as they have been on since their drop into League One at the start of the 2018/19 season.
Indeed, if they do continue in that way between now and the end of the season, then it would be a huge surprise if they are not back in the Championship next season, and they will certainly have earned it with their performances.
However, as Phillips suggests, there is still plenty of things that can chance for Sunderland between now and the end of the season, meaning there is no room for the Black Cats to get complacent about their chances anytime soon.