By Kevin Phillips

7th Nov, 2021 | 9:25am

Phillips delivers 'honest' Sunderland verdict after surprise FA Cup exit

Kevin Phillips has claimed the international break has come “at the right time” for Sunderland given their injuries and loss of form.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the Stadium of Light legend defended Lee Johnson’s side despite a third successive loss across all competitions on Saturday.

The Black Cats crashed out of the FA Cup yesterday following a 1-0 defeat against League Two strugglers Mansfield.

Cirkin started the game despite an underwhelming performance against Sheffield Wednesday in midweek in which he lost possession 28 times. (SofaScore)

Lee Johnson has limited options at full-back because of injuries to Denver Hume and Niall Huggins.

When asked by Football Insider for his verdict on Sunderland’s form, Phillips said: “Cirkin has to play, even if he is out of form given the injuries.

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“Let’s be honest, there was always going to be a time when players had a dip in form.

“This is why you have a big squad. You want cover and competition for places. The loss of form has come at the right time. It’s a good job it isn’t at the end of the season.

“It is not ideal to have so many players injured but they have a big enough squad to cope with it. Maybe it has come at the right time with the international break.

“The sole focus has to be on the next league match and they’ve got a decent break before then. Hopefully by the time the Ipswich game comes around they have got a fully fit squad.”

In other news, Kevin Phillips has tipped Sunderland to ‘sit down’ defender after ‘rut’ is revealed.