Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips has admitted that he’s worried for the Black Cats if they have to settle for a League One play-off place this season.
After a 12 match unbeaten run which saw them get to within a few points of the top two, Sunderland have faltered in the last three games.
A defeat against Charlton Athletic at the Stadium of Light has been followed by back-to-back losses away to Wigan and Blackpool, and those results have left manager Lee Johnson looking at the play-offs rather than catching Hull City or Peterborough United.
Sunderland do come up against the Tigers on Tuesday night and they also have a game in hand on their next opposition, but having played the same amount of games as Peterborough and being eight points behind them with five matches to play, the Wearsiders may have thrown it all away.
The Black Cats don’t have fond memories of the play-offs in recent seasons either, having been defeated by Charlton Athletic at Wembley in the final in 2019 and they’re not exactly in the best form in the last week or so, with the likes of yesterday’s opposition Blackpool having momentum on their side with a 16-game unbeaten run.
And Phillips fears for Johnson’s side as well, especially with with what happened in 2019 against the Addicks perhaps lingering on the minds of some players.
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“The play-offs are a lottery,” Phillips told Football Insider.
“The big thing for Sunderland is, psychologically, will this blip damage them? They got into such a good position and at one point they had the chance to go top of the league.
If they weren’t to go up automatically, psychologically, it is a big blow.
“You may have to play the team that gets into the play-offs in sixth and the team that finishes there usually comes in on a roll.
“It is concerning and with the history of Sunderland in the play-offs it is far from ideal.”
Sunderland fans would have probably laughed a few weeks ago if you told them that they were going to lose three on the spin and see all hopes of automatic promotion fade away.
But things can change quickly in football and that’s exactly what has happened – the points have dried up, Dion Sanderson has been sidelined and Charlie Wyke isn’t scoring as frequently as he once was.
Whilst the top two isn’t out of the question just yet, it does seem unlikely and Johnson will probably be already doing preparation for the play-off lottery – it could be a very stressful few weeks for Black Cats fans should they end up there.