PHIL Bardsley is facing a three-match ban after a retrospective charge of violent conduct was brought against him by the Football Association last night.
The right-back appeared to stamp on Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata towards the end of the first half of Saturday’s game at the Stadium of Light after the ball was cleared upfield.
Wiltshire referee Lee Probert did not punish the 26-year-old at the time, but the FA, after reviewing video evidence, have decided to take disciplinary action.
If found guilty, Bardsley faces a three-match suspension.
Bardsley has until 6pm tonight to respond to the FA charge.
Today, the club was mulling over its response – video replays of the incident did not look good, but they did not look necessarily conclusive either.
If the full-back is found guilty, he faces a three-match suspension.
If he appeals and the appeal is deemed “frivolous” by the FA he could endure an extended ban.
It is a problem that beleaguered manager Steve Bruce could do without as he begins to face problems at the back despite a summer spent reinforcing his defence.
Anton Ferdinand was sold to QPR on transfer deadline day for sound business reasons and Titus Bramble returned at the weekend to fill the gap that had been left in central defence.
But Michael Turner is still some distance from being ready for a first-team return, while John O’Shea remains a doubt for this Sunday’s game against Stoke City.
And if Bardsley is suspended before O’Shea returns, then Sunderland will be down to the bare bones and forced to look at options like dropping Ahmed Elmohamady into the right-back slot.
Player-of-the-season Bardsley has been one of the club’s most consistent players under Bruce and Sunderland can ill-afford to lose his drive and mental strength.
But if the Scotland international does get a ban, then the manager will need whoever steps in or covers for him to step up to the plate and deliver immediately. Sunderland can ill-afford unconvincing replacements.