Phil Bardsley: in praise of the prodigal son

Hamish McBardsley, by Jake
Jake: Hamish McBardsley makes light of brick walls

We rightly point to the Mannone saves, Ki’s creativity and composure, Wes Brown’s rocklike defending. Let’s hear it for Phil Bardsley, not yet forgiven by all but playing an important role in Sunderland and Adam Johnson’s improved form. The man himself tells the Hartlepool Mail “the boys are willing to throw their bodies on the line and run through brick walls for each other. That’s what it’s all about at this football club” …

Out of the doghouse
and playing a huge role in Sunderland’s revival. That’s Bardo, back from what must have seemed the darkest period of his career and playing the sort of football that brought him a player of the season award in 2011.

I have been critical, coming down heavily on him for those off-the-field bêtises – a great word, never far from Salford lips, meaning “foolish pranks or actions” – and raising doubts about his abilities. Other have been harder still.

But his form has been transformed since the unpromising return from injury and purdah at Swansea.

Here are a couple of extracts from a piece I have written for ESPNFC in praise of one of the heroes of our march to Wembley and the slog towards survival.

… having regained his fitness, rhythm and pace, Bardsley has been a revelation, with gutsy defending and bright, menacing forward play. He has scored vital goals — including the winner at home to Manchester City — and gone close or created chances on numerous other occasions. His attacking role has been a factor in the revitalisation of Johnson on the wing.


[He’s] a dogged player who never shirks a challenge. He can cross and he can shoot. It ought to be remembered he is also essentially a one-club player; despite the routine “Old Trafford old boy” description, he played only eight times for Manchester United and managed just 46 games in a long procession of loan spells before making the first of 167 appearances, so far, for Sunderland.

So I am delighted with his rehabilitation. Everyone deserves a chance to redeem himself and Bardsley has taken his in exemplary fashion. It is a measure of the change that when Fulham again seemed to be sniffing around towards the end of the transfer window, my own feeling was one of relief as the deadline passed without a move. Last August, I’d have chipped in with a few coins to help him on his way.

The full article is at Have your say there or here whether or not you agree.

'Nee more betises' promises Bardo, not to be confused with Bardot 2004, as seen by Matt
‘Nee more betises’ promises Bardo, not to be confused with Bardot
2004, as seen by Matt

7 thoughts on “Phil Bardsley: in praise of the prodigal son”

  1. “Could his so called mockery of the opening day defeat been a dig at Di Canio and his team selection rather than a go at the club itself?”

    I don’t think that there was ever any doubt about this. I have no idea what had been said or indicated in earlier tweets about the defeat on the opening day but my sense of things told me that his beef was with the manager and not the club.

    Phil Bardsley has always given the club everything he had on the field regardless of what he may have doing rolling around on a carpet.

    Di Canio hated him and I suspect Phil was never keen on him either.

    Delighted to see PB having such a great season. He’s been tremendous.

  2. We now have 2 left-footed LBs and two right footed RBs. The first choice FBs have done a good job as evidenced by 1 loss in Lord knows how many games. We seem to have achieved a balance in the Force. Alonso supports Borini whilst Bardsley backs up Johnson. We seem to have width and balance. Not perfect but the best team since Reidy. We seem to have a fighting chance of survival and a manager who can take us onwards and upwards. I’ll not apologise for being upset when MON left….I just respect the guy so much. I’ll not apologise for being incandescent over PDC’s appointment. But I have to say I’m very happy with Gus.

  3. I too was a big critic of PB – but not for his off-field antic’s, which frankly I put down to the infantilism that sometimes seems part of the professional footballers DNA.
    I just thought he was a very limited player, albeit whole-hearted.
    However, I have been very impressed with his form since he returned to favour [ under Poyet ] and in my opinion he has been, with Ki, Brown and Johnson [ another that I was close to writing off ] outstanding.
    He has always had energy, and commitment, but the change of style seems to have revealed hidden depths to his game, and his link-up play with Johnson is one of our greatest weapons.

  4. I’m not saying this as a fact but…..could the casino incident, while showing that Bardo was a bit of a prat was only celebrating the fact that his club had avoided relegation with the bonus of guaranteeing him Premiership wages for another 12 months?

    Could his so called mockery of the opening day defeat been a dig at Di Canio and his team selection rather than a go at the club itself?

    Could Bardsley, O’Shea. Cattermole etc. have realised early on that Di Canio’s methods were going to be a disaster and rather than being the selfish, unprofessional individuals many people branded them as, did in fact have the club, and their own pride in their profession at heart?

    Just a thought, but nobody can dispute the commitment and effort they have shown under Bally and Poyet.

  5. Bardsley has being one of our most consistent performers since he’s return. If it wasn’t for him picking up a injury Fulham would have being further up the league and we would have being lower. Yes he was a complete prat with he’s recent behaviour , but more than Di Ssaster and I’m pleased Poyet gave him a chance when many, me included said he shouldn’t !

  6. One thing I would add is that the system we now play suits him far better than the just lump it out of defence that we saw with Bruce and O’Neil and to a lesser extent with Di Canio.

    If Di Cano had still been here then Bardo most certainly would not have been. Under Poyet everyone seems to have been given a chance, so if its good enough for Gus then it would be rude for us fans to disagree after what he has achieved with a squad I and many others had written off.

    Yes, he deserves a second chance and hopefully he will take it and not slump into type if/when he slips down the pecking order. If he stays unblemished between now and the end of his Sunderland career then he will go down as a good servant.

    But one word of caution is his petulance when not picked and one more episode would be enough to see him out, hopefully he has learnt form the past.

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