PHIL BARDSLEY insists former Manchester United team-mate Wes Brown deserves the plaudits for not throwing in the towel.
Brown made his first Premier League start since January, 2012, in last week’s victory over Manchester City after ending a torrid 22-month spell on the treatment table.
Sunderland had offered to pay off the remainder of Brown’s contract, which runs until the summer of 2015, at the tail end of last season, as the former England international continued to suffer injury setbacks.
But the 34-year-old was determined to play again and, despite breaking down during pre-season, fought on to make a successful return to the first-team picture.
Bardsley has been left in awe of Brown’s doggedness to fight his way back into the frame and the quality of the centre-half’s performances in his two-and-a-half outings for Gus Poyet’s side.
“When you’ve got players like Wes Brown in your back four, you’re going to keep teams out,” Bardsley told the Echo.
“I thought he was absolutely fantastic against Man City, particularly considering he’s been out so long. He’s had difficult times.
“What a top fella to come back from what he’s had because many people would probably have chucked it.
“He’s a great character and I’m delighted for him.”
Sunderland head to fourth bottom Stoke City on Saturday in the first of two back-to-back trips to bottom-half sides, with Poyet’s men facing Aston Villa seven days later.
The second-bottom Black Cats have taken just a solitary point on the road this season after suffering defeats in their last four away games.
But, after a 100 per cent return at the Stadium of Light under Poyet, Bardsley is eager to pick up some momentum away from home in Sunderland’s survival battle.
Bardsley, who is hoping to overcome a groin problem to continue in the starting XI at the Britannia Stadium, added: “We hadn’t won at home for a long time before beating Newcastle.
“So now it’s up to us to keep up that form going away and go to Stoke and Villa and keep picking up points.
“We want to keep winning games and putting points on the board, but we’re not going to dwell on the league table.
“There’s 20-odd games to go yet and we’ll keep trying to play like we have done and hopefully the points will come.”