Gareth Barker has been speaking on the latest episode of the Wise Men Say podcast, where he revealed his preference for Sunderland to avoid Portsmouth in the League One play-offs.
The Stadium of Light outfit appear to have all but secured their place in the top six of the third tier after collecting 73 points from their 43 league games to date, five more than seventh-placed Pompey.
Although the south coast club are currently sitting outside of the play-offs, only goal difference separates them from fifth-placed Oxford United, having played a game less than Karl Robinson’s men.
Portsmouth ended a five-game winless streak last time out with a potentially pivotal three points against Bristol Rovers, and their return to winning ways has got Barker worried about a potential meeting in the crunch stage of the campaign.
He said: “I want to avoid Portsmouth because I think they’ve got a really talented group of players for the league, and I think now like with the Cowley brothers, I think they do have a certain way of playing. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it could certainly cause us problems.
“I don’t know who’s going to be fifth in the play-offs, but I wouldn’t want to go into a two-legged tie with Portsmouth knowing the threat they’re going to pose.”
TIF Thoughts on Sunderland’s play-off hopes…
After spending 10 consecutive campaigns in the Premier League between 2007/08 and 2016/17, Sunderland have now spent three successive seasons in League One, and the fans are desperate to start climbing back up the football pyramid.
However, they face a tough task to return to the Championship this time around, with the likes of Lincoln City, Charlton Athletic and Blackpool also harbouring ambitions of doing just that.
The Cowley brothers shot to fame with the Imps, guiding them to the FA Cup quarter-finals back in 2017, and no side are likely to look forward to a meeting with their Portsmouth side should they manage to secure a place in the play-offs.