O’Neill’s genius down to simplicity, says Sunderland star Bardsley

Phil Bardsley

Phil Bardsley

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PHIL Bardsley says Sunderland head to Stoke tomorrow looking up the Premier League table rather than down.

So much of the current season has been about the battle to avoid getting sucked into the relegation scrap but with the Black Cats producing blistering form since the arrival of Martin O’Neill, the defender says the team’s sights have changed.

On Wednesday, Sunderland got a victory which not only took them above opponents Norwich City but over this weekend’s opponents, Stoke City.

And Bardsley says the team are intent on ensuring that what goes up does not come down, in Sunderland’s case.

“We’re in eighth place and we’re determined to carry the run on,” he said. “We want to go all the way and finish as high as possible.

“It feels like we’re making up for a bit of lost time at the start of the season.

“Steve Bruce probably said himself that things didn’t go the way we wanted. But the new manager’s come in and everybody’s playing for their place and showing what they are all about.

“We’ve got to keep doing that and keep getting the results.

“The manager’s changed things around with simple things. It has been so simple.

“He says things to you and you think about it and you think ‘oh yeah, that’s right’.

“It’s not massive things, it’s just his presence and things he says. He’s a great person to learn from.”

Sunderland’s upswing in form has been further boosted in the last couple of games by the return of striker Fraizer Campbell after a 17-month lay-off with cruciate ligament injuries.

The ex-Manchester United forward has scored in both his comeback games and Bardsley said: “He’s been a breath of fresh air.”

The defender says the whole team has benefited from the enthusiasm and ability of the 24-year-old.

“What he brings to the party is a great work ethic,” enthused Bardsley.

“I’ve known him a long time and he’s never changed a bit.

“He’s been the same despite the problems he’s had off the pitch with his injuries.

“He’s always had a smile on his face and been determined to get back.

“He’s always wanted to show people the Fraizer Campbell he was before he got injured and, by God, he’s doing that now.

“He’s been absolutely brilliant for us.

“There’s never been a moment when he doubted he’d be back.

“He’s been so determined.

“The manager’s bedded him in since he returned to training before Christmas and now he’s come on and just played fantastically.”