PHIL Bardsley believes Sir Alex Ferguson has dropped a rare clanger by allowing ex-Manchester United team-mate Wes Brown to rejoin him at Sunderland.
Centre-half Brown shone on his Black Cats debut in Saturday’s Premier League opener at Liverpool as Sunderland earned a well-deserved point ahead of this weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby.
Former England international Brown set Sunderland back a modest £1million during the summer after making just eight top flight appearances under Ferguson last season.
But full-back Bardsley is well aware of the quality Brown will bring to the Sunderland line-up, providing the 31-year-old stays clear of the injury set-backs which have dogged his career.
Bardsley told the Echo: “Sir Alex makes some decisions and this one has come in favour of us because if Wes plays like that, he’s up there as one of the best centre-halves in the country.
“I’ve played with him before and I know what he can do. When he plays like he did on Saturday, he’s top class.
“He’s got unbelievable composure and in the air he wins everything. Overall, he’s a fantastic player and a great lad as well.
“We’ve just got to keep him on the pitch. He’s had a few injuries in the past, but he’s made a tremendous start.”
Bardsley admits the point on Merseyside is a major confidence boost ahead of Saturday’s clash with Newcastle, who also secured an opening day draw against one of last season’s top six.
Sunderland showed their resolve against Kenny Dalglish’s new-look Liverpool following a whirlwind start from the hosts, which saw Luis Suarez break the deadlock after blazing a penalty over the top minutes earlier.
Steve Bruce’s men kept the deficit to one and were the better side after the break – Seb Larsson grabbing the equaliser with a brilliantly struck volley.
“Obviously, they were going to come out of the blocks because they were at home and they’d brought new players in,” added Bardsley. “But in all honesty, I thought we dealt with it well.
“I can’t remember too much after the goal that we had to cope with, other than (Stewart) Downing’s shot that hit the bar. It’s a massive boost to go into the derby with something.
“We’ve worked really hard in pre-season to get our fitness levels where we want going into the season, knowing we had some tough opening games.
“Hopefully it’ll stand us in good stead for the derby. Like any team that comes to Anfield and gets a result, it’s a great achievement. We got a draw and we thoroughly deserved it.
“It was unfortunate to concede a penalty, but then luckily for us, it went over. Then we’ve conceded a soft goal when Suarez scored from the cross.
“But I think we deserved a point, I thought the second half was terrific.”