Rowell Report: Bardsley showed he’s the real deal

Ex-Sunderland footballer Gary Rowell
Ex-Sunderland footballer Gary Rowell
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A LOT of of the media have gone for Jack Colback as Sunderland’s man of the match in the Tyne-Wear derby at weekend – and I can see exactly why.

There’s a lovely connection in the fact that it was a Tynesider who applied the killer final blow with the third goal.

And we should remember that not only did he also have a big part to play in the other two, but that he looked assured and comfortable throughout.

There were others who picked Adam Johnson and I could understand that too.

Not only did he get on the scoresheet in this fixture for the second game in a row but he also had a big hand in the first goal and if a marvellous bit of skill had come off for him, rather than his final shot hitting the post, we would have been talking about one of the goals of the month.

I can also see the case for picking out Fabio Borini – a darting threat throughout, coolness personified for his penalty and so busy that we shouldn’t forget he found time to head clear off his goal-line a Shola Ameobi header which would have been a certain goal without him being so alert.

There are honourable mentions too for Jozy Altidore, Wes Brown and John O’Shea.

But for me, there is one person who, in my opinion, was head and shoulders above everyone else as the man of the match, and that player? Step forward Phil Bardsley and take a bow.

Probably the key moment in the game was the first goal – it almost always is when it comes to the derby.

And although there was so much to praise from others in the build-up, including Johnson’s dinked ball, the goal was down to Bardsley and his desire and hunger to get into the box.

When you first see that move start, Bardsley is barely inside the Newcastle half – he’s actually a long way behind play.

But from the moment the attack began, he’s sprinting towards the box and that was what panicked Vurnon Anita into giving away the penalty from which Sunderland never looked back.

Hatem Ben Arfa was potentially Newcastle’s biggest threat but he never got past Bardsley – his positioning and defending was superb.

He got the mix of defending and attacking for a full-back spot on, and it said everything that Newcastle ended up moving him into a different part of the pitch because he was getting no joy out of Bardsley.

Finally, I thought Bardsley epitomised the team spirit of the side and the perfect attitude to take into a derby.

I’ve seen a lot of shrinking violets in this fixture over the years but he looked up for it from the first whistle and you could tell he was loving every moment of it.

When you think of from how far back that lad has had to come this season to get to where he is now, it’s a remarkable achievement.

And he fully deserved the fans chanting his name in the latter stages of the game. He’s had some great days in football, Phil Bardsley, but that derby win must rank up there for him as among the very, very best.