Kevin Phillips says Charlie Wyke's injury will give Kyle Lafferty the perfect opportunity to make himself a hero at Sunderland.
Lafferty joined the club on a free transfer in January as competition for in-form target man Wyke, and could get an opportunity sooner than expected after Wyke picked up a shoulder injury in the defeat to Portsmouth on Saturday.
The extent of the injury is not yet known, with the club awaiting scan results to determine how long Wyke will be out for. They are hopeful it is not a serious one, however, with Wyke not looking too concerned as he left Fratton Park on Saturday.
But Phillips, who knows a thing or two about being a hero on Wearside, believes it gives Lafferty the perfect opportunity to seize his place in the side and show what he can do.
Asked if Lafferty was capable of filling the void left by Wyke's potential absence, Phillips told Football Insider: “I think he can. But when Wyke has been in good form – his confidence will be high – it is a blow.
“That is why you bring players in for cover and one of the reasons Phil Parkinson has brought him in. Lafferty now, it is over to you. Pressure on.
“He has played in big games in Scotland like the Old Firm. He has got to come in now and fill the void. If he can come in and score goals now he can make himself a hero, especially if he can get Sunderland into the play-offs. I hope he can get off to a good start.”
Wyke's fitness depending, Lafferty could be in line to make his first Sunderland start on Saturday when they host Ipswich Town. He built his fitness on Saturday, with 45 minutes from the bench after replacing Wyke at the interval.
And despite a poor performance from the Black Cats, Lafferty did show some positive signs, winning a few headers, showing a couple of good touches and looking mobile.
The 32-year-old has never been a prolific goalscorer, however, only reaching double figures in three of his 14 seasons as a pro. His international record is more encouraging. He has 20 goals for Northern Ireland from 73 caps.