Kevin Phillips reveals he wants to be Sunderland manager – but not yet

Kevin Phillips with his award. Picture by FRANK REID
Kevin Phillips with his award. Picture by FRANK REID

Kevin Phillips insists it is too early in his coaching career to throw his hat into the ring to be the next Sunderland boss.

But the Sunderland legend believes that his former club are facing a critical decision this summer over who takes the Black Cats reins in the long-term.

From Sunderland’s point of view, I still feel they’ll be fine, even though they’ve still got a bit of work to do

Kevin Phillips

Leicester City assistant first-team coach Phillips savoured Stadium of Light joy on Saturday, as the Foxes rubber-stamped their Premier League survival after a remarkable escape from the drop.

Phillips still believes Sunderland will join Leicester in the Premier League next season, even though the Black Cats require another point to mathematically free themselves of relegation fears.

Yet even if Sunderland stay up, the Black Cats need to end the constant cycle of relegation battles after three successive years of nail-biting fights for survival.

Seven managers in as many years has not helped Sunderland’s bid for stability, and Phillips says that is an issue which needs a favourable outcome when Dick Advocaat’s short-term contract expires at the end of the campaign.

“First and foremost, they need to sort out the managerial situation once they’re safe,” said Phillips.

“I believe they will be okay, but the summer is a big one for them with the manager.

“I believe it needs to be a long-term project, whether that’s someone whose young and enthusiastic, or someone whose experienced and knows the league.

“But it needs to be a long-term process because we all know this place has huge potential.”

Could Phillips be a candidate for the post?

Since hanging up his boots last summer, Phillips has been coaching at Leicester and makes no secret of his ambition to eventually take charge of Sunderland.

But not yet.

“At some point in my career, I’d love to come back here and manage, but at the moment it’s a learning curve for me,” he said.

“It’s been a massive eye-opener for me at Leicester.

“I’m enjoying working there at the moment.”

Phillips has played a part in a stunning reversal of fortunes for Leicester, who have become only the third side in Premier League history to be bottom of the table at Christmas and still beat the drop.

Nigel Pearson’s men have taken 18 points from the last nine games, with the draw at Sunderland proving sufficient to complete their escape from danger.

And Phillips believes it is a survival act which surpasses Sunderland’s Great Escape from last season.

“When you analyse the Great Escapes, what West Brom did a few years ago and Sunderland did last season, I would say this one is the best of all of them,” he said.

“You have to give credit to the owners for sticking by the manager.

“The manager never lost the dressing room once, and how many times do you see that with a team struggling at the bottom of the league?

“We’ve had that belief. It’s just been that bit of luck, fine margins, but to put in a run like that at the end of the season has been remarkable.

“We’ve never played badly. I think there’s only been three or four halves of football where we’ve played poorly.”

He added: “For the last month or so, last weekend’s game was always going to be significant over who stays in the Premier League, for us and Sunderland.

“From a personal point of view, I’m delighted that we’re still in the Premier League.

“But from Sunderland’s point of view, I still feel they’ll be fine, even though they’ve still got a bit of work to do.

“I’m hoping they’ve done enough.”