Bardsley: like him or loathe him, we can’t leave him alone

Michael Lough: Giving his view on Bardlseygate
Michael Lough: Giving his view on Bardlseygate

John McCormick writes: M Salut is out of contact as he makes his way from the depths of France to Swansea, so it’s down to me to keep things ticking over – [thanks – M Salut] – until he returns to tell us how the Lads played. This means it’s me you can blame for the small picture of our guest writer Michael Lough, who whets our appetites for Saturday by giving us his views on the Bardsley saga. You might be feeling a bit of déjà vu if, like me, you’ve just come away from the ALS website, whose almost simultaneous posing of a similar question is pure coincidence. My advice – read on, you can never have too much SAFC. Now, over to Michael …

There is nothing modern football loves more than a saga. Whether it’s a contract renewal, a training ground scrap, or a player-manager relationship; heated debate and media frenzy is bound to follow.

This is certainly the case with long-serving full back Phil Bardsley who for many years was regarded as a bit of “cult-hero” on Wearside, even winning the supporters’ player of the season award in 2011. This was a comeback against the odds for Bardsley as Steve Bruce had deemed him surplus to requirements. After a summer of rigorous training he had forced his way back into the manager’s reckoning and was a consistent figure at left back for much of the campaign. His “no nonsense” defending combined with his evident passion for the club and the occasional thirty yard screamer elevated him to a favourite on the terraces.

Unfortunately, his reputation has taken a serious blow after a season of inept displays, drunken antics, and social media stupidity. The Salford-born full back has already demonstrated he is capable of defying the odds; can he do it for a second time?

Hamish McBardsley by Jake
Hamish McBardsley by Jake

As soon as images of Phil Bardsley lying covered in £50 notes were plastered all over the internet his Sunderland career appeared to be over. Fans understandably were angered at not only his drunken state, but the disrespect he showed with such a public display of his riches. This was added to by Paolo Di Canio publicly condemning him and stating an intention to sell him. Despite this, most fans were not overly antagonistic, reflecting that although his actions were stupid and irritating, he had served the club well. It was only on August 17 that Bardsley became public enemy number one, by openly mocking the club’s opening day defeat to Fulham. This is still the problem. Fans can forgive poor displays; after all, we have all endured Jeff Whitley and co, but one thing that is unforgivable is to make a mockery of either the fans or the club and he managed to do both simultaneously.

Therefore, fans are perfectly justified in wanting him to be dismissed from the club. However, while such a stance is easy to make with regards to a limited footballer such as Phil Bardsley would it be made had Giaccherini committed similar actions? If Poyet was to completely omit the Scottish international he would set a precedent that no transgressions would be tolerated,  meaning that he could lose one of the club’s top players in the future. Such a stance is fine but certain supporters may feel conflicting emotions at such rigidity.

For purely footballing reasons Bardsley epitomises  much of what has been wrong at Sunderland for years. His on-field commitment cannot be questioned, but he is lacking ability and in ideal world would be moved on. Sadly, given our lack of options at right back it would be foolish to disregard him completely. Celuska has been solid enough, but if he was to sustain an injury we would be woefully short at fullback. Removing Craig Gardner from a three man midfield would leave us short of options in centre midfield as well as at fullback. So even letting him “rot” in the reserves would be counterproductive for Sunderland.

From a personal view point, I believe it would be great for the club to simply terminate Bardsley’s contract as it would demonstrate progression and a wealth of alternative options. However, for reasons already stated, we need to accept him back into the fold for at least the short term. Irrespective of how the issue is resolved it would be best for all concerned if Bardsley were to make a public, non-choreographed apology to the fans. His silence can easily be interpreted as arrogance and he has much to prove if he is to be accepted again by the Sunderland faithful.

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17 thoughts on “Bardsley: like him or loathe him, we can’t leave him alone”

  1. They are both complete arses. Different types of arses, but arses just the same.

    We’ve enough arses on the field without these two off it. Nuff said.

  2. With respect John if the former player your referring to is Bramble a hell of a lot if the fans, me included wanted him gone from our club even though he was innocent . He’s behaviour on a few occasions while being perfectly legal was an embarrassment to our club , no double standards whatsoever .

    • I was one of them.

      But is Bardlsey’s behaviour an embarrassment to the club or to himself? There is a precedent, of course. Think back 15 years or so. Lee Clark anyone?

      I’ve no doubt players’ contracts include behaviour clauses. What Bardlsey & Bramble’s cases illustrate is a need to spell out clearly what these mean and then to apply them rigorously. There is too much ambiguity.

      Is the good ship Sunderland sailing the choppy seas of player power without a moral compass?

  3. Regardless of Bardsley’s infantile and stupid antics, he is basically not good enough so on pure footballing criteria he should be moved on and would have been if he had not injured himself.

    Don’t think double standards apply here, yes the Club took action against him and that should be that. However when you go out of your way to insult the Club and Fans then that is a different matter. Bardsley had the chance to not post the tweet it was sitting there in the palm of his hand, but still obviously in some petulant strop he sent it anyway….what did he think the result would be, a universal sympathy with his predicament from the Fans?

    I remember years ago Ritchie Blackmore, having left Deep Purple, being interviewed about his work and commenting that he did not think any of it was any good when with Purple, well Ritchie boy I didn’t purchase any of your stuff since.

    Its quite simple really you either make a choice not to pay or in Bardsley case you make a choice not to support, which is hard as you want the team to still do well. Result is that if you are going to generate large amounts of antipathy from the terraces which will effect the whole team due to the inclusion of an idiot, then you are better not to include them full stop.

    Even having him on the bench as back up would produce too much negativity, better he be not here at all. And in reality it would only be a matter of time before he did his next stupid action.

    • That someone who sends a tweet in a petulant strop is showing the club and fans disrespect is quite clear.

      What’s the position when a professional footballer gets quite drunk and concerns a taxi driver so much the driver goes to the police? Surely anyone with respect wouldn’t get into that situation.

      In one case it’s overt, what about the other? What’s the degree of disrespect in each case?

      • John I actually agree with most of the sentiment in your bit, but where do you draw the line.

        I want a successful Club more than anything in the world and what time I have left in it, however I will not sell so we arrive at the point where we lose all grasp on
        what we are.

      • I think Bramble contrasts with Bardsley and also with Lee Clark.

        I thought Bardsley’s 2nd transgression petty and stupid but given his situation – sent to the youth team, on his way out etc, – I could be convinced that it was a moment of inconsidered action born of frustration or rashness. Once done it’s difficult to undo. Press the button and it’s gone….
        Fans seem to have taken it as a predetermined insult.

        Lee Clark, as Drummer points out below, never played for the club again. I thought his action was funny more than insulting but I’m not a Mackem. As with Bardlsey, fans took it personally.

        My opinion is that Bramble should have had his contract ripped up. But the fans never took his action as an insult to them.

        So the message is behave like a complete lout but don’t insult the fans and you can keep your job

      • I was all for getting rid of Bramble just for footballing reasons.

        But once he got arrested and made the Club a laughing stock his contract should have been terminated immediately. however that would have been pre-judging the criminal investigation. But once the investigation was over he should have been sacked.

      • I have to admit to having ‘Rising’ one of the finest albums ever with Ronnie James Dio…got rocky after that…gates of Babylon but then….

      • Ah,R.J.Dio, now yer talking .Sang on 3 of the greatest hard rock albums ever, Rising,Heaven and Hell(Sabbath) and Holy Diver (Dio), sadly missed,R.I.P.

  4. We shouldn’t even be at the point where we are discussing this issue. Bardsley shouldn’t be on the books at Sunderland, and had it not been for the timing of his injury he would indeed have been sold. No point in revisiting this one. It appears that the view is fairly universal. He isn’t wanted and won’t be welcomed back by the fans. Mind you there could be some really sad amusement just watching the sort of abuse he would deservedly receive if he did play. A footballing version of the stocks. I quite like the image of that.

    • Not so long ago a player was accused of sexual offences and brought before the courts. He admitted to being “quite drunk” at the time of the incident leading to the charges (London Evening Standard, 30 May, 2012). After being charged but prior to the court case the club reported it had fined this player for bringing the club into disrepute.

      The player was found innocent and subsequently resumed his career. I don’t recall many objections to the resumption.

      Bardsley has not been accused of any crime or brought before the courts. He has acted in a way which has reflected badly on him but not brought the club into disrepute in any great way, and the club has taken action against him for his transgressions. Previously he had served the club well.

      Yet the “fairly universal” view is that he “shouldn’t be on the books”

      Is this a case of double standards?

      • John Mac –

        Fully agree [ about double standards ] There are footballers all over the country doing spupid things week in week out, and no body usually turns a hair.

        Personally, I wouldn’t pick PB, but only because I think he is a very limited player.

  5. Bardsley is not as good as Celustka who we have at RB now. And he could even be 3rd choice behind Gardner in some peoples’ eyes. (Although Gardner can be a fouling machine at times.)

    If Bardsley plays badly one game, the fans will start to jeer him and then that affects the whole team. So, I think bringing him back is something for the future. If we’re paying him a wad of cash every week then he should be in the squad and training hard, but I’d not be too bothered if he were sold in Jan.

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