Kevin Phillips is over the moon Sunderland blocked Leeds United’s swoop for youngster Dan Neil and he has now taken his opportunity in the Football League Trophy.

The Stadium of Light legend, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, stressed the “huge” importance of his former club keeping their best young players after a year where “far too many” talents have been sold.

Neil, 18, started for the Black Cats on Tuesday night and earned praise for his performance despite Phil Parkinson’s side losing 2-1 at League One rivals Fleetwood Town.

Speaking after the loss, Parkinson claimed it was the teenager’s “best 45” in red and white after a “difficult” start to the 2020/21 campaign.

As revealed by Football Insider, Leeds United made an approach to sign Neil in the summer for a six-figure fee.

Phillips suggested that Neil will have a big part to play from this season onwards.

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“It is huge,” he told Football Insider.

“I have always said that Sunderland cannot afford to be letting their youngsters go. They have let far too many go over the last year, whatever the reason may be.

“The situation the country is in youth players is something that might have to be looked at. There will not be the money to go out there and buy like they have done.

“I think it is fantastic that Dan Neil took his chance and from what I gather there have been two or three other youngsters who really impressed early on in the season.

“From my sources, people that support Sunderland have been frustrated that they were not given an opportunity in the first team. The players are there.

“It is great to see Neil given an opportunity and also taking it as well. It is a really encouraging for the football club.” 

In other Sunderland news, Kevin Phillips in awe of senior player who he claims is ‘rolling back the years.