SUNDERLAND manager Mick McCarthy yesterday gathered his players around him to remind them that swingeing job cuts at the club are a direct result of their failings this season.

The Black Cats, who will be relegated from the Premiership tomorrow if they lose at Birmingham, announced on Wednesday that up to 83 members of staff and around 15 players would have to go to ease debts that have risen to over £26m.

And McCarthy, who succeeded the sacked Howard Wilkinson only a month ago, spoke of the shockwaves reverberating around the Stadium of Light following the club's decision to take such drastic action.

McCarthy last night said: "I spoke to the players this morning and put them fully in the picture about what is going on. It's been a shock to everyone - I don't think they were clear about how many people were under the threat of losing their jobs.

"We're talking about 83 people who have wives, husbands, kids, mortgages, car loans. We're talking about livelihoods and it's the human side that has an effect on everyone. I wasn't aware of the redundancies when I came in here and neither was anyone else here at the time, but I was aware of the financial difficulties.

"A lot of people are very sad, very angry and very upset and justifiably so because they look at the playing side and ultimately it's the playing side that reflects everything.

"People bask in reflected glory when the playing side is going well, and a lot of people are paying the price because it's gone wrong.

"I feel for all those people who are suffering because of it.''

McCarthy concedes he is powerless to prevent the loss of any player who wants to leave the club - goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen and striker Kevin Phillips are expected to move on.

And Phillips last night dropped the broadest hint yet that he will go, saying: "I want to play at the highest level for as long as possible.

"I'm almost 30 and at the moment I'm doing my duty for Sunderland. You will get a straightforward answer about my future at the end of the season.''

McCarthy admitted: "As a manager, anywhere in the world, if a player comes in and says, 'I don't want to play for you anymore,' there's nothing you can do about it.

"But nobody has said that to me - I've not had that discussion. It's going to be an ongoing thing over the next couple of weeks. I think we'll be circulating names before the end of the season.

"I'm going to have to raise money to change the squad round. If I want to raise money, there is a certain section of players who would be valuable assets - they are more likely the ones I will have to sell.

"It's a question of how much the club are in need of the money. There won't be many clubs in the summer throwing money around like manhole covers. Most will be working with tight budgets.

"There will be discussions between me and the board. Financially, it's going to be difficult, but decisions will be made and this club - and the playing staff - has to be freshened up.''

Meanwhile, Sunderland defender Phil Babb has undergone surgery on a long-standing groin problem. McCarthy said: "He's been waiting for that, but if we were one point from safety, he wouldn't be having an operation.''

Young right-back Mark Rossiter will be out for at least six months after it was confirmed he had cruciate knee ligament damage.

McCarthy has added Ashington-born midfielder Chris Black and goalkeeper Craig Turns, both 20, to the squad for the trip to St. Andrews.

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