PHIL Bardsley says suggestions of an early-season crisis at Sunderland have been over-exaggerated and the team is now starting to show the form that it has always been capable of.
Sunderland have turned in two fine performances, in the defeat at Everton and victory at Fulham, and the full-back is confident Sunderland can continue to build on those displays in the weeks ahead.
“The win at Fulham was a massive result for us, obviously,” admitted Bardsley (pictured).
“We wanted to win the game desperately and we did that.
“But I thought the previous week at Goodison Park we deserved something, too – it just wasn’t to be.
“We knew Fulham was going to be a tough game, but, fortunately for us, we got the result we wanted and hopefully we can take that into the two home games coming up.
“We are confident in every game we go into and we don’t really fear defeat, so it’s up to us to take into the up and coming games.
“The work ethic has always been there with the lads, it has just been that little bit of luck in front of goal, maybe taking a few more chances, shooting etc.
“But the group of players we’ve got are capable of winning any football match.”
On a personal level, the 27-year-old is just glad to be back playing again after a summer of inactivity caused by injury in the very first week of pre-season training.
The Scotland cap spent months recuperating as midfielder Craig Gardner deputised at right-back, Bardsley finally returning to the side at the end of October, coming on as a substitute in the 0-0 draw at Stoke.
Last weekend’s win at Fulham was his fourth since returning to availability again and, having overcome one battle by getting back into the side, now he is intent on recapturing optimum form as soon as possible.
He recalled: “For four weeks, my ankle was swollen up and no one had any idea of what was wrong with it.
“Eventually it was decided it required surgery and that was a massive blow for me because it meant I didn’t have a pre-season.
“Getting into the team is always tough, but getting into it without a pre-season needed an unbelievable effort.
“I think I played a game and a half in the reserves and then came in for my first start against Middlesbrough in the cup and it has been difficult for me.
“But I’ve never feared a challenge and now the challenge is to get back to showing the form I’ve shown over the past few years and I’m sure I can do that.
“I’m always confident in my own ability and always felt it was only a matter of time before I started to get back to where I wanted to be.
“Full credit to Craig Gardner in filling in very well, but I was always confident of getting back in at right-back once I started getting back to my best.
“No disrespect to Craig, he did a great job, but he’ll tell you himself he wants to be back in midfield.
“From my point of view, I just want to get back into the first team at full-back and do the best job I can and I know that the more games I get to play the better I’ll be.”
H Former Middlesbrough and Sheffield United striker Brian Deane, who had a brief spell with Sunderland, has been appointed as the head coach of Norwegian top-flight newcomers Sarpsborg. “I am looking forward to putting my stamp on this job,” said Deane, 44.
H Defender John Egan has returned to Sunderland after breaking his right leg while on loan duty with Bradford against Plymouth on Tuesday.