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 http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/2797?cc=5739. Have your say there or here whether or not you agree.