Kevin Phillips reveals the key attribute Jack Ross has brought to Sunderland - and the Premier League club they must learn from
Kevin Phillips perhaps wasn't the only person slightly sceptical when Jack Ross was handed the Sunderland job last summer.
Unproven in English football and still a relative newcomer to the world of management, there were some raised eyebrows when the Scot was handed the reigns at the Stadium of Light.
There are no such doubts nine months on, however, with Phillips admitting the former St Mirren boss has quickly won him over.
And, ahead of Sunderland's trip to Wembley to face Portsmouth in the Checkatrade Trophy final, Phillips has backed Ross to deliver some long-awaited silverware to Wearside - and become a 'club legend' in the process.
"Jack has done an exceptional job because it’s not the easy one,” said Phillips, speaking to the Glasgow Evening Times.“He’s gradually changing the image of the club and if they can get over the finishing line in the league and add a trophy it would be great.
"A lot of fans were surprised [when Jack was appointed] and I was too given the names linked with the club but it probably helped that he wasn’t a big name.
“I remember when I signed for Sunderland and nobody had heard of me so that helped because I had nothing to prove.
“Jack knows it’s a big football club and he realised if he could get the sleeping giant going then he could become a club legend pretty quickly.”
Phillips has been consistently impressed with Ross' side when watching the Black Cats this season - and has praised the manager's calm and calculated style throughout the campaign.
The former striker is also delighted to see Sunderland's youngsters being handed an opportunity in a time where chances for thriving stars are becoming increasingly scarce.
“He’s not afraid to give young players a chance which is great in any league," added Phillips.
"I’ve watched them live this season and they’ve got a lot of energy and play a good attacking style of football.
“They have been under the cosh at times but never panic and just lump it up top. They keep playing their style and that tells me he’s very clear in what he wants and his message to the players is clear.
“He’s very calm and I’ve never seen him get irate the way you see a lot of managers in that league running up and down.
“If I’m a player on the pitch and see my manager calm when the crowd are getting on your back then it can only help you.”
And Phillips has urged Ross and the Black Cats to take lessons from the rise of one of his local sides - Wolves.
The Wanderers sunk to League One a decade ago, but that kick-started a rise that saw them seal promotion back to the Premier League while they now sit 90 minutes away from an FA Cup final.
“I don’t live too far from Wolves and I’ve watched them closely and when they were relegated twice they got rid of a lot of dead wood and started rebuilding and look at them now," he said.
“They could get to an FA Cup final and they’re sitting comfortably in the Premier League so they’ve learned from their mistakes and that’s the biggest thing for Sunderland - they have to learn from their mistakes.”