Ex-Sunderland forward Kevin Phillips has warned Black Cats manager Lee Johnson not to let the August League One Manager of the Month award ‘go to his head’, in an interview with Football Insider.
The 40-year-old won the accolade after winning 12 points from a possible 15 in his five league games last month and winning two Carabao Cup ties away at Port Vale and Championship side Blackpool, sending a statement of intent to the rest of League One with their 3-2 victory over the latter.
However, their league results were just as impressive, overcoming four very capable sides in Wigan Athletic, MK Dons, AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers, who will all be aiming to compete at the top end of the third tier.
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These results, as well as their narrow 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light against Accrington Stanley yesterday, have helped them to overcome their disappointment at the Pirelli Stadium when they lost 1-0 in a midweek tie to Burton Albion.
The Black Cats’ win against John Coleman’s side, combined with their impeccable start to the 2021/22 campaign in August, has left them two points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand over third-placed Bolton Wanderers who are currently three points adrift of Lee Johnson’s men.
Despite this impressive start, the Wearside club’s former striker Kevin Phillips has warned Johnson about the dangers of his Manager of the Month award and said to Football Insider: “It (winning the award) happens when you are top of the league.
“You need to get recognised for that. I’ve seen it so many times when someone wins that award and then they lose the next few games.
“I’m sure this won’t derail their season or anything but don’t let it go to your head and just keep going, ignore it.
“It’s part and parcel of the game these days but Lee has done a really good job.
“It’s only early but Sunderland need to keep this going.”
Consistency will be key for Lee Johnson’s men if they want to get back to the Championship at the fourth time of asking – and they will know that considering their previous experiences of trying to get out of this league.
Wigan Athletic look a major threat, with recently-promoted side Bolton Wanderers also starting well and the likes of Portsmouth and Sheffield Wednesday likely to rise up from mid-table at some point during the campaign.
Despite their shoddy start to the campaign, you can never rule out Ipswich Town either who recruited well during the summer, not just in terms of numbers, but also with the calibre of players they managed to bring in.
So far, things are looking promising on Wearside, but they went unbeaten in their opening six league games of the last campaign under Phil Parkinson and look what happened to their form after that.
26-goal forward Charlie Wyke could still be a big miss if the goals start to dry up, but their recruitment in the same was good and there will always be time to bring more players in during the winter window if they are short in one or two areas.