SUNDERLAND have rejected the chance to qualify for Europe via the Intertoto Cup competition this summer. And ace marksman Kevin Phillips last night urged his team-mates to make sure they open the door to a Continental adventure through their Premiership position.

The England striker, whose 30 goals last season helped the Wearsiders lift themselves into seventh place, is anxious that Sunderland - now in fourth spot after their shock 4-2 win at Chelsea last week - do not slip up again.

A top-six spot might be enough to open the door into Europe for Sunderland, but Phillips knows that with only eight matches left and competition at the sharp end of the table intensifying, there can be no margin for error.

Phillips said: "We can still improve on last year's finish and we will look at it as an opportunity lost if we fail to do that.

"We put ourselves in a great position six weeks ago when we climbed into second place and when we faced Manchester United it was a top-two game.

"But a lot has happened since then and we have slipped down the table a bit.

"But we are still in contention and if we can come out of the games against Chelsea and Leeds with at least four points then that sets us up nicely to go into some games against teams who are below us in the League - teams we know we can beat."

Phillips stressed: "If we don't capitalise on it then it will be disappointing and we will just have to try all over again next season."

Sunderland manager Peter Reid, a great believer in proper pre-season preparation, has again decided against taking part in the Intertoto competition.

The Football Association invited clubs to seek entry into this year's event - for teams finishing outside the Uefa placings - and the eight clubs who applied are Newcastle United, Coventry, Everton, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Leeds, Leicester City and West Ham United.

Last season Bradford City, the Uefa Fair Play winners, and Aston Villa took part in the Intertoto competition in July.

Bottom club Bradford, who have struggled all season, had six games in the space of four weeks, losing in the fourth round, while Villa, who finished one place ahead of Sunderland last season, also went out in the fourth round after playing four matches.

Reid, however, does not want to expose his players to a gruelling competition before the all-important Premiership campaign gets under way and his views have been fully endorsed by his directors, despite the opportunity to create additional revenue during the summer.