PHIL Bardsley says his friendship with Danny Simpson will be completely and utterly suspended on derby day as he sets about engineering a Sunderland victory over the old enemy.
The Black Cats defender has been on the winning side of a Tyne-Wear derby only once in his five years at the club – when Kieran Richardson’s phenomenal free-kick past Shay Given earned Sunderland a 2-1 victory.
That was in October, 2008, less than a year into Bardsley’s stay on Wearside, and he has never tasted victory on Tyneside though Sunderland went close in last season’s encounter – the 1-1 draw which saw Shola Ameobi net a late face-saver against 10-man Sunderland.
Bardsley said: “We need the points and Sunday would be a perfect time to start picking them up.
“Sometimes I think we make too much of this fixture, but we also know how massive it is and we want to win it.”
Bardsley believes the arrival of Paolo Di Canio has helped improve Sunderland’s chances.
“We want to be hard to beat, that’s the main thing,” he said.
“The shape work we have been doing is vital. And going into a game knowing where we should be is invaluable.
“It’s exactly what we need.”
Bardsley is one of the few Sunderland players who has consistently done well in this fixture and he’ll have no problem with nerves or motivation. He said: “Do I get nerves? Nah, you’ve got to thrive on things like that.
“I keep in touch with Danny Simpson all the time, but I’ll hate him on Sunday though!
“The feeling you get from winning a derby is unbelievable and we want that, but the most important thing is to get the three points.”
Last season, Simon Mignolet saved a penalty at St James’s Park to preserve Sunderland’s 1-0 lead, only to be defeated by a hurried Ameobi shot which went in about the only yard of space which would have brought the home side an equaliser.
But Bardsley believes the in-form stopper will be a key player for the Black Cats again at the weekend.
“He is unbelievable, but we don’t want to pump him up too much in case someone comes in and tries to buy him!” said the 27-year-old.
“But he is a talent.
“When you think of the injury he sustained last year, for him to still come flying out at people – he is exceptional.
“He’s a beast.”