Speaking exclusively to Football FanCast, ex-Sunderland frontman Kevin Phillips has praised Lee Johnson for getting the best out of striker Charlie Wyke ahead of the Papa John’s Trophy final on Sunday.
Prior to Johnson’s arrival in December, the former Bradford City man had been struggling in front of goal, netting just 14 League One goals in two-and-a-half seasons since his move from Valley Parade.
However, the appointment of Johnson has seen Wyke spark into life – with his opener in Wednesday’s victory at Pompey his 16th league goal in 17 matches under the previous Bristol City boss, taking him level with Peterborough’s Jonson Clarke-Harris in the race for the Golden Boot.
Wyke has scored 25 goals in all competitions – including five in the Papa John’s Trophy – and will be looking to improve his tally when Sunderland take on Tranmere Rovers in the final on Sunday.
Phillips told Football FanCast:
“Before Lee came in, he would start a few games and get left out for a couple. I think Lee has come in and gone ‘bang!, you’re my main man’.
“It helps when a manager will put your arm around you. I heard Lee speaking the other night saying how are you getting the best out of Charlie.
“He said ‘I’ve just been talking to him, pulling him to one side for a chat, it might not be about football, it might be about his life’. It gives you a boost as a player, it makes you relax on the pitch. For this league he’s ideal – he’s big and powerful, he gets inbetween defenders. At times his hold-up could be better, but that’s probably the league he’s playing in.”
But Phillips also believes that the role of winger Aiden McGeady has helped Wyke’s goalscoring form. McGeady has already registered 11 assists since returning to the side, four of which all came for Wyke in the same game when Sunderland thrashed Fleetwood last month.
He added: “It does help when you’ve got someone like McGeady whipping crosses in, sometimes you can’t not score, but credit to Charlie for getting the amount goals. Not matter what league you’re in, when you’re scoring that amount of goals, you’re doing something right.”
Kevin Phillips will be a studio guest for Quest’s highlights of the Papa John’s Trophy Final on Sunday. Stream on discovery+