Sunderland legend Kevin Phillips has heaped praise on Lee Johnson following the Black Cats’ recent resurgence and suggested that his man-management abilities are making a major difference at the moment.
Johnson came into the club to replace Phil Parkinson with hopes of automatic promotion very much fading and confidence amongst the players low. However, the former Bristol City manager has transformed things and he has found a formation that suits the majority of his options and can get the best out of the likes of Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke in the attacking third.
The Black Cats secured a sixth win in seven League One matches on Tuesday night with a vital 2-0 win away at promotion rivals Portsmouth. That means they are now just two points adrift of second-placed Peterborough United and they are also just five points further back from league leaders Hull City and they have two games in hand on the Tigers.
Speaking to Sky Sports, via Chronicle Live, Phillips suggested that Johnson’s man-management skills and his experience have enabled him to go into the club and really show signs of turning things around on the field. He also praised him for finding a way to get the best out of his current options rather than going into the club with a blind philosophy of how he wants to play.
He said: “I know that football club inside out and it’s just about getting the club out of this league.
“You can go in with your philosophy and your game plans but it’s about finding a way to win with the players that you’ve got.
“I think Lee knows that. He’s an experienced enough manager to know that.
“He’s going into a big club – expectations are very high – managers have tried and haven’t got them out of that league.
“A new owner comes in and he demands promotion. He’s finding a way to win and getting the best out of his players and that’s good man management.
“Me and Matt (Taylor) were talking off-air and it’s about talking to players now. Finding out what makes them tick. You heard Lee Johnson say he’s spoken to Charlie Wyke.
“Perhaps managers before haven’t pulled him to one side and had a chat with him. Get to know him and it looks like – you saw the hugging at the end – that the players are playing for their manager.”
Phillips is spot on here, Johnson has shown that he is a pragmatic manager and that he has the ability to manage his resources and find a system that gets the best from his most important players in the squad. That shows that maybe he learned a lot from what went wrong towards the end of his time in charge of Bristol City, where at times he maybe did not make the right choices.
Johnson has been a huge difference and he has got McGeady back on side and back on song and that has, in turn, got more from Wyke who has been exceptional in the last few months. With confidence on the up, there is no reason now why the Black Cats can not go on to secure a return to the Championship this campaign.
Getting Sunderland up would be an excellent achievement for Johnson and would be massive considering they are only in the early stages of the takeover. That would therefore see plans of investment be able to be progressed forwards quicker than it might be if they stay in League One.