By Kevin Phillips

8th Apr, 2020 | 11:16am

Sunderland Exclusive: Kevin Phillips makes big Josh Maja claim after watching Netflix series

Kevin Phillips insisted Sunderland would be in the Championship if Josh Maja had not taken left the club. 

The former England international, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, claimed the 21-year-old would have become a “cult hero” on Wearside had he scored the goals to take them up.

Maja left for Bordeaux in January 2019 having enjoyed a sensational start to the season at the Stadium of Light, scoring 16 goals in 30 appearances.

In an interview with the Chronicle, the young striker said: “I have settled in well and I think I have improved my game.”

However, Phillips, believes the Nigeria international’s career would have been better served staying with the Black Cats.

“You would have to say they would have been in the Championship had he of stayed,” Phillips told Football Insider. “He was on fire.

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“When you watch the Netflix series it highlights how important he was to the football club – important goals. Maja is a natural goalscorer. Since he has left they have not replaced him. Nobody has come in and set it alight.

“It was clear it was a money option. For a young lad, staying at Sunderland would have been ideal. If he scored the goals to take them up he would forever be in the hearts of the fans.”

As revealed by Football Insider, Rangers have set their sights on Maja as they consider potential replacements for Alfredo Morelos this summer.

Jack Ross’s side failed to gain promotion last season, losing out to Charlton in the play-off final.

In other Sunderland news, Kevin Phillips has told Football Insider his verdict on Phil Parkinson’s start at the Stadium of Light.