The return of Tom Flanagan to full training is “great news” for Sunderland manager Lee Johnson, according to Kevin Phillips.

The Stadium of Light legend, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, claimed the 29-year-old’s return will be a “big, big boost” given his quality and reliability in League One.

Flanagan has been sidelined since the 3-0 win at MK Dons on 2 February with a broken metatarsal.

As quoted by the Sunderland Echo, Johnson revealed on Wednesday that the centre-half had returned to training and should be in contention to return in the first week of March.

The Northern Ireland international has been a regular starter when fit, with 19 appearances this season across all competitions.

When asked for his assessment of the latest update on Flanagan, Phillips told Football Insider: “It is great news for Sunderland to have him back, especially at this stage of the season.

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“The games are coming thick and fast at the moment so to have a player of that calibre coming back for the final 15 odd games can only be a good thing.

“You know you can rely on Flanagan at this level. It will be a big, big boost for Lee Johnson.

“His return will also keep others on their toes. It is great news for the player and the club.”

The Black Cats face Swindon on Tuesday and Rochdale on Saturday as the race for League One promotion intensifies.

Lee Johnson’s side are fifth in League One, six points off the automatic promotion spots.

In other news, Phillips drops big verdict on what he’s seen from Sunderland forward Aiden O’Brien after talking to Millwall coaches.