By Kevin Phillips

28th Nov, 2021 | 9:31am

Phillips: Sunderland have 'taken risk' with Stewart after Johnson reveal

Kevin Phillips fears Sunderland manager Lee Johnson has taken a risk by publicly criticising Ross Stewart.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the Stadium of Light legend suggested Johnson’s comments regarding the 25-year-old striker could backfire.

As quoted by the Sunderland Echo (24th November), Johnson questioned Stewart’s desire and said “he has to liven himself up a little bit at times.”

Stewart is Sunderland’s top scorer in the 2021-22 campaign.

However, he has failed to score in his last four League One appearances.

When asked by Football Insider for his assessment of Johnson’s comments, Philips said: “It is risky to come out and give your main striker a bit of stick.

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“Yes, it can work but ultimately, it is a risk.

“Lee will hopefully know his players inside out though. Stewart is hopefully a player who responds to it. I doubt Lee would come out and challenged Stewart publicly unless he knew that he would respond to it in the right way.

“Sometimes a player needs that. Stewart’s form has not been brilliant of late and he is the main guy. Only time will tell if that inspires him to get back among the goals on a regular basis.

“He would have hope to have got back on the scoresheet yesterday.”

Stewart started Saturday’s 2-1 win over Cambridge United but failed to score.

He has contributed 10 goals and one assist in 18 League One appearances this season.

In other news, Kevin Phillips has predicted Sunderland could recall loan star in January after pictures emerge.