When Stoke City line up tonight for our game with the Potters in the third round of the Capital One Cup there may well be a familiar face amongst their starting eleven.
Phil Bardsley, who made two-hundred appearances in all competitions for Sunderland after signing when Roy Keane was manager back in 2008, was a polarising figure throughout the majority of his time at Sunderland and opinion on his ability was largely split between two camps - those who believed he gave his all (and that was better than nothing) and those that felt he just didn't have the quality required to play regularly in the top flight.
There were definite highs - his goal in the League Cup semi-final last season for example - but there were also huge lows, such as the infamous casino incident and taking stabs at the club via social media. A product of the Manchester United youth system, he undoubtedly played every game with his heart on his sleeve but ultimately his limitations were best exposed in Poyet's possession-based system where patience and not the blood-and-thunder style usually adopted by Bardsley prevailed.
Gus Poyet, his gaffer for most of last season, is still a big fan of the full back and still appreciates his contributions to the cause in keeping the club safe at the end of last term.
"Firstly, if Phil plays tonight, it would be nice to see him because my relationship with him has not changed because he left. We helped each other last year. When I arrived, he was in a very, very bad situation – the worst situation that can happen to a football player – as a result of a mistake, and he knew that.
But he wanted to show that he was ready to help the team and he did really help us a lot. He was a key performer for long periods, scored important goals and was an a part of everything that we did last year. I’m pleased for him that he is playing week-in and week-out in the Premier League. He helped us stay up and we helped him restart his career, so I don’t think there is any problem between us.
I remember the first few games that we played Phil, there was a mix of emotions in the stands, but I think when he scored against Man City and we won the game, everything changed and it was back to normal. The goal he scored at Old Trafford helped, too!"
I hope he does play tonight - not because I want to applaud him, but because I know what a player like Will Buckley can do with the space he always leaves on his marauding jaunts up the other end of the pitch. I was never Phil Bardsley's biggest fan - that title belongs to our very own Michael Graham - but he did do more good than bad as a Sunderland player and I'd like to think those at the game tonight will at least have enough respect not to boo him when his name is called at the start of the match.