Kevin Phillips is blown away by the start Aiden O’Brien has made at Sunderland and tipped the forward to start the season opener on Saturday alongside latest recruit Danny Graham.

The 2000 European Golden Shoe winner, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, suggested that the pair could form a formidable partnership in attack for Phil Parkinson’s side this season.

O’Brien, 26, who completed a switch from Millwall to Wearside last month, scored his first goal for the Black Cats on Tuesday in an 8-1 thrashing of Aston Villa’s Under 21s in the EFL Trophy.

Graham also got off the mark having only completed a move from Blackburn Rovers 24 hours prior to the game.

Sunderland begin their quest for promotion on Saturday when they welcome Bristol Rovers to the Stadium of Light, incidentally the team they last faced prior to lockdown.

When asked by Football Insider if he had been impressed by O’Brien’s start at the club, Phillips said: “A really good player.

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“He looks sharp, looks lively and this weekend I would go with O’Brien and Graham straight away. It looks like those two could strike a good partnership.

“Both can score goals – one is lively and the other has the experience in Graham. There may be a partnership in waiting between those two.”

After the midweek win, Parkinson said: “We want selection problems, we want competition in all areas of the pitch. I really want tough decisions, and I want myself and Steve [Parkin, assistant manager] to be talking on the way in to work at 6.30am-7am in the morning about what we are going to do because we have got so many options.

“Certainly tonight the lads have given us plenty to think about.”

In other Sunderland news, Kevin Phillips has told Football Insider that newest recruit is a “very shrewd signing”.