Since Neil’s appointment, the Black Cats have lost only one game, only his second in charge, and have also earned a reputation for scoring late goals.


The boss now has them in the League One playoff final, hoping to secure Sunderland’s passage to the Championship after four seasons of frustration in the third tier.



Bennett thought Sunderland had a good chance of making it out of the playoff semi-finals against Sheffield Wednesday because of the change he sees in the side under Neil.


The Black Cats legend thinks that under Neil, the players are not afraid to put their head where it hurts whereas earlier they were getting physically outmatched.



Speaking to the Sunderland Echo, Bennett said: “Going into the game (second leg of the playoff semi-finals) I fancied ourselves because I thought we were better equipped to deal with the situations than we were last time and I think it showed in our performance, especially with the centre-backs, (Danny) Batth, (Bailey) Wright and (Dennis) Cirkin were outstanding.


“A lot of that has got to go down to the manager and the coaching staff as well, they do look a harder team to beat.



“You are talking about the same players who we had previous to that and there were times, shall we say, when we got bullied and had a soft touch.


“Somehow he has got it right, they have formed a good partnership and as you saw on Monday they are putting their head in where it hurts.”


Sunderland will be going into the game against Wycombe Wanderers in the playoff final hoping to maintain their form under Neil and seal a return to the second tier.