Kevin Phillips fears finishing in the play-off positions will be a “big psychological blow” for Sunderland.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the Stadium of Light legend claimed failing to achieve automatic promotion could weigh heavy on Lee Johnson’s side who held a commanding position in League One last month.
The Black Cats hopes of finishing in the top two suffered another major blow on Saturday after a 1-0 loss to Blackpool.
Three losses on the bounce has left Sunderland eight points off the automatic promotion spots with five games to play.
Phillips is concerned about his former club’s downturn in form but insisted they have still got a “massive chance” of gaining promotion.
“The play-offs are a lottery,” he told Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs.
“The big thing for Sunderland is, psychologically, will this blip damage them? They got into such a good position and at one point they had the chance to go top of the league. If they weren’t yo go up automatically, psychologically, it is a big blow.
“You may have to play the team that gets into the play-offs in sixth and the team that finishes there usually comes in on a roll.
“It is concerning and with the history of Sunderland in the play-offs it is far from ideal.
“Lee Johnson will be telling them that they are ultimately still in with a great chance of promotion. There is not many sports in the world where you get a second chance of something. They still have a massive chance of going up, even though psychologically it is not ideal.”