Top Dogs – Sunderland claim bragging rights

Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon (centre) celebrates with his team mates
Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon (centre) celebrates with his team mates
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PHIL Bardsley insists Sunderland have finally got their derby revenge on Newcastle United by pipping the Magpies to a top 10 finish.

Sunderland leapt four places in a seesaw finale to the Premier League campaign yesterday to achieve their pre-season objective of finishing in the top half of the table.

Newcastle had been in pole position to take the North East bragging rights when they were 3-0 up against West Brom with 30 minutes remaining at St James’s Park.

But the Baggies staged a stunning late fightback to level proceedings and coupled with Sunderland’s comfortable 3-0 victory at basement boys West Ham, it left the Black Cats as the region’s top dogs for the third successive year.

Bardsley believes Steve Bruce’s side have got one back for October’s 5-1 defeat against the Magpies after an ecstatic away dressing room at Upton Park celebrated a stunning turn of events.

The Sunderland Player of the Season told the Echo: “Everyone was absolutely buzzing that we’d finished above Newcastle.

“They did us earlier in the season and we only got a draw at our place.

“But now we’ve set it right. To finish above them in the league is a massive achievement for us, especially when it means we finish in the top 10 – it just makes it that little bit sweeter.

“I’m absolutely delighted for everyone at the club. We set our standards to finish in the top half and we’ve done that, even though it might only be by goal difference.

“I’m so pleased for the manager and staff. It’s time for them to put their feet up and go again next year.

“The fans will be buzzing and the changing room was amazing. It said everything about what we’re all about.”

Bardsley was impressed with the contributions of all three Sunderland goalscorers at Upton Park as the Black Cats notched a second successive away victory.

Once Bolo Zenden had handed Sunderland a 17th minute lead, the Black Cats never looked in danger against a West Ham side who displayed a chronic lack of fight.

Stephane Sessegnon’s third goal in a Black Cats shirt and Cristian Riveros’ first for the club saw Sunderland coast to victory while more dramatic events took place elsewhere.

“I thought it was a tremendous performance,” added Bardsley, used at right-back with Jack Colback switching to left-back.

“In the first half, we were a bit too comfortable at times and gave silly possession away. But Sessegnon was magnificent and Bolo Zenden was a pleasure to watch.

“As soon as we got the second one, we were in full control. The goals Cristian and Stephane got were two good ones.

“Stephane’s found his feet and next year he’ll be massive for us.”