PHIL Bardsley insists he can handle Newcastle United’s widemen – whichever flank he finds himself on.
Bardsley has started Sunderland’s last two Premier League games at right-back, scoring his first top flight goal in the victory at Aston Villa last week.
But the 25-year-old is expected to revert to left-back in Sunday’s Wear-Tyne derby to accommodate the returning Nedum Onuoha.
Such has been Bardsley’s consistency and adaptability this season though, that he doesn’t mind whether he faces Jonas Gutierrez or Joey Barton, who are expected to occupy the wide positions in Newcastle’s midfield.
Bardsley told the Echo: “They’re both very different.
“Joey is a decent player who has been in the league for a few years now. He’s got good delivery.
“He’s a feisty character but you need people like that around for people to talk about.
“Gutierrez is quite tricky and quite quick.
“Whoever you’re up against, you have to be at your best and I’m sure come Sunday I’ll do that.
“Credit to Newcastle, they’ve come back up and they’re doing pretty well.
“But I’m more worried about what we’re trying to achieve than what Newcastle are doing.
“If we can do what we have been doing, I’m sure we’ll be alright.”
Bardsley admits Sunderland need to make amends on Sunday for October’s shambolic 5-1 defeat at St James’s Park.
But the former Manchester United defender believes the Black Cats have already repaid the faith of their supporters with their post-derby results – Steve Bruce’s side lying in sixth spot heading into the weekend.
Although realising the importance of the occasion, Bardsley stressed that Sunderland have to look at the overall picture rather than thinking the derby is the be-all and end-all.
“It was difficult after the first game at Newcastle,” he said.
“Everyone was disappointed, we didn’t play well as a team and we got punished for it.
“It wasn’t great being out there if I’m honest.
“But these things happen in football and we want to put it right with some good performances and keep our run going.
“It’s not the be-all and end-all though. It’s losing a football match at the end of the day.
“No disrespect to the fans but it’s hyped up to some tune and sometimes you can’t help if doesn’t go right for you.
“I know it’s difficult with bragging rights, but there’s more to the league than winning the derby.
“Obviously though when it comes to Sunday, we have to put things right.
“We’ll go into it like we do every home game and take it to them.
“I understand it. It hurts me when United get beat off Liverpool.
“But you get over it within a few weeks and you get on with it because there’s more to the league than two games out of 38.
“We’ve repaid the fans in the way we’ve gone about our business at Chelsea and Villa along with some good home performances.”