PHIL Bardsley dedicated Sunderland’s weekend victory at Bolton to the supporters who follow the club with such fanaticism.
The man who fans voted Player of the Year just last week said the backing given by the 4,000-plus travelling support at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday, was “unbelievable”.
And he said Sunderland supporters, who filled one end of the ground, helped drive the team to victory.
Still on a high immediately after the last-gasp win, Bardsley told the Echo: “That’s one for the fans – they deserve it.
“They were different class, but then they always are.
“To have that many fans following you and outsinging the home crowd, especially after the bad run we’ve had, is unbelievable really.
“And we’re just glad to send them back home with a great win to enjoy, because it was some game and scoring right in front of them with virtually the last kick of the game was a bit special wasn’t it?”
That Sunderland were still in a position to win the game at the death owed much to Bardsley himself.
The full-back made several last-gasp blocks for his side, but none were more important or eye-catching as his 92nd-minute clearance off the line from a Kevin Davies volley which had seemed certain to hand victory to the home team.
“To be honest, it’s not something you think about,” mused Bardsley. “It all happens so fast that instinct takes over and, with the game still going on afterwards, you don’t have time to dwell on it.
“As soon as you make a block, you’re instantly thinking about the loose ball or the rebound and it was all happening so fast towards the end that one moment the ball was at one end of the pitch, the next moment it was at the other.”
The victory – which confirmed top-flight survival – brought huge relief to Sunderland’s players, who celebrated with the fans after the match before partying in the dressing room and Bardsley said: “I think it takes a lot of pressure off us.
“It hasn’t been easy for us over the last few months, we’ve come in for a bit of stick – which you’re always going to get on a bad run – but we’ve come through that.
“We’ve got two wins from three games and it’s great for the players, great for the manager and great for the fans.”