Farewell Bardo. Now enjoy Stoke’s lesser red and white stripes

Leading the way as Jake captures moments from Phil Bardsley's SAFC career
Leading the way as Jake captures moments from Phil Bardsley’s SAFC career

Forget the Man Utd old boy nonsense. Phil Bardsley may be a Salford lad, a United fan and a player who’d give his right arm to have had a proper Old Trafford career. But he was barely part of the playing set-up – eight appearances in five years. Until this week’s move to Stoke, he has effectively been Sunderland and Sunderland alone, with a commendable 200 games, seven goals (some of them spectacular and rather important) and just a few loan spells, all pre-SoL, at Rangers, Burnley, Villa and Royal Antwerp, to modify the impression of a solidly one-club man…

Bardo leaves with warm wishes from Salut! Sunderland. He was occasionally a chump, especially during the wretched PDC reign, but he was also a player of the season, acclaimed by the fans for his passionate embrace of the SAFC cause. Like Craig Gardner, he is not the most skilled player you’ll ever see; also like Craig, he is certainly among the most wholehearted.

Jake's farewell to Bardo
Jake’s farewell to Bardo

Here are extracts from a piece I wrote about him at ESPN after he had regained his first-team place and showed himself to be a worthy member of the squad:

Back in October, just after Gus Poyet chalked up his first victory as Sunderland head coach — the team’s first of the season — I wrote that two of Paolo Di Canio’s forgotten men had played significant roles.

That match was against Newcastle United at the Stadium of Light and those players were Lee Cattermole and Phil Bardsley, both of whom made strong contributions to a victory that was won with a magnificent late strike by Fabio Borini.

The Italian, a loan signing made in the short-lived Di Canio era, started making his presence felt after PDC had left the club and the three points were secured that day by a telling combination of old guard and new world.

Three months on, a similar mix was on display as Poyet’s increasingly buoyant side romped to victory in the return match at St James’ Park on Saturday.

Every member of his team deserved credit for a superb collective display but, once again, Borini scored and Bardsley caught the eye. It was his surge into the Newcastle penalty area, after a delicate lobbed pass from Adam Johnson, that led to a foolish Vurnon Anita challenge and Borini’s cool opener from the spot-kick that followed…


… Bardsley’s recent form has played far more of a role in Sunderland’s revival than is often suggested. It is not so long since he was frozen out of the first-team squad by Di Canio, who was rightly angered by off-the-field faux pas, if characteristically intemperate in his public rebukes.

The full-back spoke openly about having no future at Sunderland. Had he not been injured playing with the development squad, he would almost certainly have been moved on, perhaps to Fulham.

Instead, he recovered, fought his way back quickly — too quickly, if his showing in the 4-0 defeat at Swansea in Poyet’s debut was a reliable test — into the team.

But 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.

This is the sort of form that brought Bardsley a player of the season award under Steve Bruce in 2010-11. He has overcome formidable obstacles; my own sharp criticisms of him were like gentle taps to the wrist compared with the public floggings administered by fans outraged by his Instagram message mocking the opening-day defeat at home to Fulham, an act of stupidity that brought him a two-week suspension.

Even if we put that incident out of our minds, and forget the silly prank when he was photographed lying on a casino floor covered in 50 pound notes, it is fair to say doubts have also been raised about Bardsley’s abilities at the Premier League level.

But he is 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.

Matt's cartoon as adapted by Jake
Matt’s cartoon as adapted by Jake

7 thoughts on “Farewell Bardo. Now enjoy Stoke’s lesser red and white stripes”

  1. Plan B. It’s incredibly detrimental to be relying on loan players year upon year. It just makes the manager’s job 25-30% more difficult every summer.

    Borini, Ki, Alonso, Celustka this year. All contributed to a greater or lesser extent. Previous to that we had Rose, Bendtner, Onouha, Muntari, Mensah, Welbeck, prior to that, Evan, Le Tallec, and a load more, some of whom I can barely recall.

    It’s building on nothing at all. It just helps develop a player and usually enhance his value for someone else. It simply has to stop. I don’t have the stats but I wouldn’t have thought that there’s another club in the PL that has relied on loan players as much as we have over the past 5 seasons.

  2. I’ve heard plenty of good things about Phil Bardsley off the pitch so he definitely goes with my best wishes.

    Like Larsson the biggest reason to offer him a new deal was probably that we’re thin on the ground and could do without another huge rebuild, but that doesn’t say a lot about him. He gave his all however, I never cared about the casino thing and Di Canio handled the whole thing badly. That goal at Old Trafford will certainly live long in the memory for thousands of us.

    When I heard he’d gone though, I smiled. We need to move on to better now and hopefully that won’t indeed mean another loan from Liverpool. Surely it’s a waste of money, and detrimental to our future?

  3. I agree with the comments from both Pete and Tom. Yes we do need better players than Bardsley and Gardner (particularly Gardner!).

    The problem we face here and what concerns me is that we have been saying the same thing about departees over the last 4/5 years. Jones, Leadbitter, Turner, Richardson, Malbranque etc. We said the same about them and ended up with………….well the likes of Gardner, Graham, Altidore, many of whom cost a lot more than those who they replaced. They were supposed to be better but they weren’t and that’s why we constantly end up in a relegation scrap.

    The biggest problem we have is dealing with the loan system. Another season of using some other club’s players to keep us afloat. There’s a rumour about Kelly on loan from Liverpool coming in on loan. Why do we keep on doing this? We need to be more than a nursery club for the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs.

  4. Bardsley lways played with his heart on his sleeve but to progress we need to go with better. Modern full backs are basically wingers who can defend, players who can track athletically up and down their flank and this is what we need to look for now. Vergini did well at right back towards the end of last season but in essence he is a centre-back and as a club I hope that the past frequent tendancy to play square pegs in round holes is finished.
    Sunderland supporters want to see some genuine qulaity brought in now all over the pitch, players with guile, pace and tenacity and a hunger to succeeed.
    It is a sad indictment on the quality of player we have had over many decades now that the likes of Collins, Nosworthy and Bardsley have been Player of The Year, supporters being almost forced to vote for footballers of very limited ability but who always gave their all in seasons of mainly struggle and strife.
    Thanks Phil, but lets move on to better quality…..

  5. I fall in between the two views expressed here. He was a good,solid player who could never be faulted on the score of effort (as Argus wrote about Bobby Kerr on numerous ocassions).
    However, if we are to progress, we need more rounded players than Bardsley and Gardener, neither of whom were particularly subtle. The fact that both have gone to clubs that are at the same level as us and who have a history of English managers suggests that they have the English qualities that those managers are looking for.
    In the games that he played at full back, Vergini showed that he could play a much more thoughtful game than Bardsley. He is more the kind of player that Poyet values.
    I wish them both well. Both were decent men (although Bardsley’s aberration against Di Canio was not wise) and they both made important contributions to the club. Gardener’s goal at Wigan appeared on the MOTD credits last year
    .Looking forward to seeing what kind of players arrive in the summer.

    • I agree. Really don’t like him at all. Pathetic attitude at times and was an extremely overrated footballer. No loss at all, as you say. He was on massive wages, too.

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