After Craig Gardner’s departure to join West Brom upon the expiration of his contract was announced this week, Phil Bardsley has followed him out the Stadium of Light exit door, with his move to Stoke City confirmed today.
Initially signed from Manchester United during the Roy Keane era in January 2008, the right back would go on to become Sunderland’s longest serving player at the time of his departure making 200 appearances, albeit with plenty of ups and downs on the way.
There were plenty attempts over the years to replace Bardsley, and the fact none proved successful will be somewhat of a worry to Sunderland fans. Pascal Chimbonda was brought in just six months into Bardsley spell; Alan Hutton was loaned in from Tottenham under Steve Bruce; Ondrej Celustka was brought in last summer following Bardsley’s expulsion from the team under Di Canio.
It was the time he was transfer listed, by Bruce, when Bardsley started to shine in red and white. After spending the summer boxing, he found himself deployed on the left hand side of defence, and went on to win player of the year in the unfamiliar role, winning a new contract along the way.
Bardsley pushing forward, cutting inside and shooting was a common occurrence at the Stadium of Light, particularly down the left, and saw some brilliant strikes during his time here. Goals against Aston Villa, Chelsea and Everton particularly stand out, and he leaves with a total of 11 goals in the six and a half years on Wearside.
Bardsley has, however, divided opinion amongst Sunderland fans. After celebrating last season’s survival too much, and consequently showing up to training hungover, Di Canio banned the Scottish international from the Academy of Light, and looked set to move him on over the summer until an injury halted any chance of that, with Fulham credited with an interest.
Then of course came the whole Instagram incident, as well as own goals against Swansea and Chelsea following his return. But love him or hate him, Phil Bardsley has played a huge part in something no Sunderland fan will forget. That night at Old Trafford. Sunderland needing just one goal to reach the final at Wembley. Up steps Phil Bardsley who’s rocket from the edge of the area was spilled into the bottom corner by De Gea to seemingly snatch the win.
It didn’t happen quite so easily, but it’s still a moment that I’ll never forget! Cheers Phil!