Kevin Phillips believes Sunderland signing Josh Hawkes shows they are still a big club after they fended off interest from Premier League sides Leeds and Newcastle.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, the Sunderland legend delivered his verdict as Hawkes signed a two-year deal at the Stadium of Light after joining from Hartlepool United.

TeamTalk reported that the 21-year-old had attracted interest from Leeds, Newcastle, Middlesborough, and Portuguese side Braga.

The attacking midfielder rejected the chance to stay at Hartlepool in favour of a move to their North-East rivals.

He will initially link up with the Black Cats under-23 side and will join former Pools teammate Kenton Richardson at the club.

Asked by Football Insider what the signing of Hawkes means for his former club, Phillips said: “It just shows you still, as much as there still in League One, Sunderland are a big club.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

“For a young player to be joining a club, hopefully, he’s been advised right, he might think he has more of a chance of trying to break into the first team a bit earlier than he would if he went to a Premier League club

“His path might be a little bit easier, certainly with the squad not being as big as Phil (Parkinson) would like, he might have an opportunity sooner rather than later.

“It’s good news to hear that after two or three of their best young players left the club.”

Hawkes played 66 times and scored 13 goals for Hartlepool after making his debut in February 2017.

His last goal for the club was a stoppage-time winner against League Two side Exeter in the second round of the FA Cup in February.

In other Sunderland news, Kevin Phillips has urged Phil Parkinson to drop a big name and start a new signing instead.