Kevin Phillips admitted to having “mixed emotions” after hearing former Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore could be destined for a move to the Premier League in January.

The Stadium of Light legend, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, said “the board will be tearing their hair out” watching the 26-year-old’s performances at Middlesbrough this season.

Watmore left Sunderland in July, ending a seven-year association with the club and signed a short-term contract at the Riverside Stadium four months later.

His eight appearances for Neil Warnock’s side this season have yielded five goals and one assist.

Sky Sports‘ Keith Downie revealed on Tuesday that West Brom, Burnley, Swansea, Stoke and Watford are all keen on signing the attacker in the new year.

When asked by Football Insider if the Wearside club would be rueing the winger’s success in the Championship, Phillips said:

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“I am sure there will be real mixed emotions from Sunderland fans, there is for myself.

“He struggled so badly with injury, he could not get that form back but sometimes a player just needs different scenery. The fresh challenge seems to have done him the world of good.

“He has been given a new lease of life at Middlesbrough. We all knew he had talent and quality and now he is coupling that with goals.

“To be linked with Premier League sides and Championship sides, naturally, the board will be pulling their hair out. They knew he had the potential but they could not get it out of him.

“Full credit to the player for leaving and responding to the fresh challenge. A real shame but fair play to Watmore. He has shown real character because it is tough to come back from those injuries.”  

In other news, Kevin Phillips has tipped Sunderland to sell two big name players in the January transfer window.