NEVER-SAY-DIE Phil Bardsley is fighting a battle to be fit for Sunderland’s visit to Manchester City in 10 days’ time.
The gutsy full-back played on through injury in the game against Liverpool with Sunderland having used all their substitutes on Sunday.
He was struggling almost as soon as the second-half began but, aware that Danny Welbeck would have to come off on the hour after returning from injury, he soldiered on to the end of the game with a painful knee problem.
For the last half-hour of the match he was playing the game virtually at walking pace and it looked certain he would have to face a spell on the sidelines.
It was no surprise when Bardsley withdrew from the Scotland squad to play Brazil this week and it was assumed his chances of playing at Eastlands a week Sunday were negligible.
But manager Steve Bruce told the Echo: “Don’t rule Phil out, he’s still got a chance.”
“I can see why people would assume Phil would definitely be out – he’s a tough, old character and if you see him struggling you know it has to be bad.
“He’s had a knee problem for a while and played on with it but it flared up badly at the weekend.
“Having said that though, he’s had an injection in it to calm it down and I know he still hasn’t given up hope of being involved in the Manchester City game.
“He recovers quickly, he’s got the right mindset and I still think he’s got a chance.” Bardsley himself will want to play in that match.
The former Manchester United player relishes games against the Blues of Manchester and will be desperate to heap misery if he can on a season which hasn’t panned out as well for City as manager Roberto Mancini would have hoped.
Earlier in the campaign the Italian was talking up City’s Premier League title credentials but with the season entering its final phase, his side have drawn a blank in the League Cup, are out of Europe and are currently out of the title race.
Even their hopes of finishing in a Champions League position hang in the balance with Spurs breathing down their necks again.
But Bruce says City will still be a formidable prospect next weekend.
“They’re a top, top team,” he said.
“And we’ll need our strongest side, on form, to ensure we give them a game.
“A lot of the players are shaking off injuries now and will be involved in the City game, hopefully Phil will be one of them.”