SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Deal close for Bardsley and Evans

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.

KEANE CLOSES IN ON UNITED PAIR:

ROY KEANE insists his pursuit of Manchester United pair Phil Bardsley and Johnny Evans is not across the finish line.

The Sunderland manager – who questioned his side’s desire after their 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace last night – confirmed he has spoken about possible loan moves for the young defenders.

But he stressed that there is still work to be done before he is confident of adding them to his Black Cats squad when the transfer window re-opens on January 1.

Keane said: “We have been in talks about maybe getting the two lads here. But I’ve not had a chance to speak to them and I don’t like to get ahead of myself. They’re good young players and we’re hoping to get them on loan.

“Hopefully I’ll get the green light to talk to them in the next few days.”

Ferguson yesterday revealed that young full-back Bardsley WILL join Sunderland, but he has still to decide whether to release Evans.

“Roy has been in touch with regard to Johnny Evans and Phil Bardsley,” the Scot told MUTV. “In the case of Phil, the deal has been agreed but with Johnny we are holding back a little bit so we can decide what the best thing for him is.

“We could decide to keep him here but if he does go on loan, Sunderland would present the right type of challenge for him.”

Bardsley and Evans are now back at Old Trafford after loan spells. Bardsley’s stay with Rangers was cut short after a spat with Gers’ boss Paul Le Guen over a training ground incident in October.

The 21-year-old from Salford lasted seven games in Glasgow before going back to United, where he has 17 first-team appearances to his name.

He is under contract to the Manchester giants until 2009 and impressed against Sunderland last season as Ferguson’s men claimed a 3-1 win at the Stadium of Light in October last year.

Evans will be 20 on January 3 and already has three senior Northern Ireland caps to his name.

He enjoyed a productive loan spell at the Red Devils’ European feeder club Royal Antwerp in the first half of this season and Ferguson is pondering the best step for the centre-back to take next.

The Belfast teenager has yet to make a senior appearance in England, but earned his Northern Ireland debut in their 3-2 win over Spain in September and followed that up with caps against Denmark and Latvia, all of the games being Euro 2008 qualifiers.

KEANE: JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH:

ROY KEANE has warned his Sunderland players to shape up or ship out.

The Irishman was fuming about the Black Cats’ performance in a 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace last night.

And with the transfer window re-opening in January, he said he was looking for a reaction from his players after their first defeat in eight games meant they failed to make ground on the top six.

Keane said: “I don’t think we deserved anything from the game. You have to earn the right to win a game, but this one passed us by and that makes it even more frustrating.

“We have to take risks, especially in the attacking third. The game was there for the taking and we were looking to make that next step for the play-offs, but clearly we’re not ready for that and some of the players are not ready for that.

“Things don’t just happen for you in football. You have to go and make it happen, and we didn’t do that.

“We are hoping to be ready for the next challenge, and that’s getting into the play-offs.”

Sunderland went into last night’s Sky-televised encounter sitting only three points behind the play-off positions. But they created only one decent chance from open play, but Grant Leadbitter sent his first-half effort wide from a narrow angle.

Keane said: “We did well getting away from the bottom teams and I believe that was the easy part. Clearly some people are not ready for it (the challenge of continuing to climb the Championship). You have to be ready for a challenge and enjoy it.

“They have to go out and believe more or they will be at Sunderland much longer.”

Keane said more than once during his side’s unbeaten run that there was still a lot of work to be done.

“Sometimes people are a bit wary of making that next step – not just footballers, but people in life in general,” he said last night. “They like to relax and go through the motions. There’s a great chance for us to do well this season, but before you know it the season’s over and then your career is over and you wonder what happened.

“You have to step up to the plate. You learn about players all the time. Whether it is when you’re travelling, when they are preparing or whatever. There were no surprises for me – I’m not shocked. It’s amazing how often your first impressions turn out to be proved right.