GUS Poyet wants former Sunderland outcast Phil Bardsley to be part of his long-term plans at the Stadium of Light
And he has revealed that the defender - the longest-serving player on the Black Cats’ books - is equally as keen to stay beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of the season.
It is a remarkable turnaround for Bardsley, who was frozen out by former boss Paolo Di Canio last summer and at one point banned from the training ground.
Breaches of club discipline involving a late night out at a casino last season and a social media message at the start of the current one, saw him ostracised at the club.
But one of Poyet’s first actions was to forgive and forget and invite him back into the first team squad.
The Uruguayan has been rewarded by some dynamic performances from the 28-year-old, as well as goals against Southampton, Man City, Chelsea and on Wednesday, his former club Manchester United.
Bardsley’s late, late goal on the sixth anniversary of his departure from Old Trafford looked to have won the match for the Black Cats before Hernandez’ goal with only seconds on the clock sent the game into a penalty shoot-out.
Poyet said: “It was a shame Phil’s goal wasn’t the winner in a way because that would have been a great story - with him being ex-Man United and the year he has had.
“But it was still an amazing evening for him and I think it was very emotional for him.
“He cares very much for the team and I know he cares for the club and the supporters too, whatever has been said.
“When I first joined, he was being held separate from the rest of the squad - I gave him a chance but he had to take it, and he has done.
“Now he knows he has a real Premier League future, which is great, considering the situation he was in before.
“I would like to keep him at the club and I have told him so and I know he wants to stay too.
“So that is good news, it is a matter of agreeing where we are and doing that sort of thing, but I don’t want him to worry about his future.”
Bardsley meanwhile is revelling not just in his his return to the first-team but the style of football Poyet has introduced.
“I’m enjoying the way we’re being asked to play,” said the Mancunian.
“I’ve always tried to get forward but the manager is asking us to take the ball more, he’s asking us to create different angles, to drop deep more.
“Obviously we’re now playing the way the manager wants us play and it’s fantastic, It’s great and the lads are really enjoying it.”