Kevin Phillips in 'devastating' claim ahead of Sunderland v Tranmere final after in-person sighting

Kevin Phillips has warned Sunderland defeat to Tranmere Rovers in Sunday’s EFL Trophy final could “derail” their season.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the Black Cats’ record Premier League goalscorer cited the 2019 final defeat to Portsmouth that had a “devastating” impact on the Sunderland squad.

Pompey beat Sunderland on penalties at Wembley after Aiden McGeady’s 119th-minute equaliser took the game to a shootout.

After the defeat, the Black Cats won just three more games in the league and had to settle for a place in the play-offs.

They then beat Portsmouth in the semi-finals before losing to Charlton Athletic in the final at Wembley.

“It’s a big game for Sunderland,” Phillips told Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs.

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“They’re sitting pretty in the league now but this is a tricky game against a flying Tranmere. You do not want to lose to a League Two side at Wembley.

“I was at the Checkatrade Final two years ago and it was devastating for them. The magnitude is not as big this time because there is not going to be 80,000 people there. It may not have the same effect as it did last time but nonetheless, they do not want to lose.

“They are on an unbeaten streak at the moment so they don’t want to lose this. It will be a tricky game and I just hope it does not derail their season if they don’t win it.”

Sunderland have lost just two games across all competitions since Lee Johnson took over as manager at the beginning of December.

They are now just five points behind League One leaders Hull City with two games in hand.

In other news, Kevin Phillips has tipped a 26-year-old to explode at Sunderland after an “amazing” development.