PHIL Bardsley insists he has “paid the price” for his second ban of the campaign as he prepares to return at Bolton on Saturday.
The Scotland international has not featured for Sunderland since September 10 after being retrospectively punished for a stamp on Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata.
Referee Lee Probert judged that Bardsley’s challenge on the Spaniard was fair, but the FA reviewed video evidence and the full-back was handed a four-match ban – an extended suspension due to his dismissal earlier in the season against Newcastle.
Bardsley believes the footage made the incident look uglier than it was, but hopes he can put the ban behind him and earn an instant recall to the Sunderland line-up at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday.
The 26-year-old told the Echo: “I committed the crime and I’ve done the time.
“I can’t argue with the second suspension. It didn’t look very good and I’ll take the punishment.
“I jumped over the lad and I put my foot down a bit quicker than I should have.
“The referee looked straight at me after the incident and said it was fine, but obviously the powers that be have taken a different view after seeing the video.
“I think it looked worse on camera than it actually was, but there you go.
“I’ve paid the price now anyway.
“Thankfully the suspension is over and hopefully I can get back to playing this weekend at Bolton.”
Bardsley has missed six weeks of action while sidelined, with the ban spanning the international break.
But Sunderland’s reigning Player of the Year has enjoyed some competitive action after appearing twice for his country in Euro 2012 qualifiers against Liechtenstein and world champions Spain.
“It’s been a long time since I last played – for Sunderland, at least,” said Bardsley, whose suspensions have also been accompanied by club fines.
“Fortunately, I had some game time with Scotland the other week and that knocked the cobwebs off a little bit.
“The Liechtenstein game was tough on a bad, damp pitch and then we hardly touched the ball against Spain so it was good for my fitness.
“But it’s been disappointing to have such a stop-start beginning to the season because of the two suspensions.
“I started this season pretty well and put in a couple of consistent performances, but, after being out for four games, I will need to find my feet again.
“The one positive is that I feel fresher than I did at the start of the season and hopefully I can get back into the team and perform to the standards I set last season.
“I feel the benefit now – even if my bank balance doesn’t!”