Noel Whelan insisted the Premier League and government must help the likes of Sunderland survive this difficult period after the Huddersfield owner claimed as many as 60 clubs could go bust next year.

The former Leeds and Coventry forward, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, admitted he felt sorry for the Black Cats as they face the prospect of another season in League One.

Huddersfield owner Phil Hodgkinson told the BBC on Sunday that he believes as many as 60 clubs could go bust due to the financial impact of coronavirus.

The Black Cats are one that stands to lose the most from the season’s curtailment and the prospect of lost gate receipts if next season is to be played behind-closed-doors.

The Stadium of Light has the second-highest average attendance in the Football League this season despite the club being in League One – only Leeds United above them.

When asked by Football Insider how ominous Hodgkinson’s comments were, Whelan said: “I feel sorry for Sunderland. They have gone through absolute turmoil at times.

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“All we know is that financially this is going to cripple a lot of football clubs with no fans coming through the turnstiles.

“There needs to be plans put in place to help these clubs survive. Whether that comes from the government of the Premier League or both – it is important.

“We do not want to see clubs die off like this. No one could have foreseen this, it is unprecedented.

“There has got to be something put in place to help these clubs survive. It is so important to football.”

League One clubs will vote on how to end the season this week with it appearing increasingly likely the campaign will be curtailed.

Any scenario other than the season being played out would deny Phil Parkinson’s an opportunity to gain promotion.

In other Sunderland news, Kevin Phillips reacts to strong statement from Sunderland chief.