The in-form Black Cats take on League Two Tranmere Rovers at Wembley this weekend looking to continue their impressive form that has played them into contention for automatic promotion.
Defender Flanagan, meanwhile, returned from a five-week lay-off with a calf problem to play the final 30 minutes of Wednesday’s victory at Portsmouth.
But with Sunderland having won six of their previous seven League One games without the 29-year-old centre-back, Phillips has urged Johnson to stick with a winning side.
He told Football FanCast:
“I’m a huge believer in momentum – keep the same side unless you really have to change. I don’t see him [Flanagan] starting the game on Sunday. I could be wrong, he might put him in, but then you run the risk of upsetting players on this good run. Why would you want to do that? Keep the momentum.
“If they can get a foothold in the game early on, then bring him on. But I think to start the game I wouldn’t be far off the team that started at Portsmouth the other night. They’ve had time time to recover, just go with the same team.”
This definitely isn’t a bad position for Johnson to be in, but Sunderland have performed excellently without Flanagan, keeping three clean sheets on the bounce, so taking Phillips’ advice might just be a wise decision for Johnson.
Kevin Phillips will be a studio guest for Quest’s highlights of the Papa John’s Trophy Final on Sunday. Stream on discovery+