PHIL BARDSLEY could be handed a Sunderland lifeline after the dismissal of Paolo Di Canio.
Sunderland’s longest-serving first-team player was ostracised from the first-team picture by Di Canio after being pictured celebrating the Black Cats’ successful survival bid in a casino during the final week of last season.
Bardsley was forced to train with the club’s Under-21s during pre-season and then found himself in further hot water last month when he was suspended by the club for mocking Sunderland’s opening-day defeat to Fulham on social media.
The 28-year-old was fined and then issued a public apology for the incident, but, with Di Canio at the helm, there was no way back for the full-back.
Although he remains sidelined with a foot injury, Bardsley was included in a team meal prior to Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup win over Peterborough after caretaker boss Kevin Ball decided to bring him back into the fold.
Ball, hoping to succeed Di Canio on a permanent basis, says he has to adopt a clean slate with Bardsley and expects the same if an exterior candidate is selected to become the next Sunderland head coach.
“Phil accepts that what he did at the time (the casino visit) wasn’t in his or the club’s best interests,” said Ball.
“But, for whatever reason, he did it and I spoke to him about it at the time, so I know all about it.
“What subsequently happened (the social media incident) has also been dealt with.
“The biggest thing for me now is that we need Phil Bardsley fit and playing.
“Is it a clean slate? Well, really I think any manager coming – be it me or someone else – would have to take that approach because he (Bardsley) hasn’t done anything wrong under them.
“If he did it again, then obviously the only one who would pay would be Phil Bardsley because he has already been told once.”
Bardsley, in the final year of his contract at the Stadium of Light, is expected to resume full training in a fortnight after breaking his foot while playing for Ball’s U21s in their opening game of the season against Bolton last month.
And although the former Manchester United defender was not given a squad number by Di Canio, he was still included among the Sunderland players registered with the Premier League after the end of the transfer window.
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