Phil Bardsley has set his sights on a new Sunderland contract after resisting what he feels were Paolo Di Canio's attempt to "destroy" him.
The right-back has hit two goals in two games to accelerate Gus Poyet’s Black Cats revival with back-to-back home wins over Southampton and Manchester City.
It has helped to rehabilitate the defender but also paid back the faith of the new manager, who brought him in from the cold after Di Canio targeted the defender over the summer.
Bardsley hardly helped himself with some ill-advised social media comments in the interim period but he is thankful to the supporters for seeing past some of the messages which were filtered out by the former manager.
Indeed ,his status with Sunderland supporters has improved enough for him to celebrate with the crowd after Sunday’s winner.
Bardsley jokingly admits a few would have “chinned” him if he’d tried something like that two months ago. Whether it will be enough to earn him a new contract is another matter.
He has eight months left on his current deal and there have been no talks yet, although Poyet intends to use the international break to assess his next move on several players coming to the end of their contracts.
Bardsley is in no doubt about what he wants to happen.
He said: “I’d love to stay here, but it’s up to the club.
“I’m in the last seven to eight months of my contract and we’ll see.
“I have to perform. In the last two games I’ve found some form and now I have to continue that form.
“I need to continue to try and bring some quality to this team and hopefully I can do that.”
Bardsley chose his words carefully on his former manager but admits he felt he was harshly treated by him.
Unlike former boss Martin O’Neill – who named Di Canio as he accused him of being a managerial “charlatan” – Bardsley did not specifically reference the Italian , but the implication was clear.
He added: “You have to be tough upstairs or this game will destroy you.
“A couple of people have tried that
but not been successful. Any footballer has to do his talking on the pitch.
“There were a few situations I was involved in which were difficult for me and my family at the time.
“As I say that’s all in the past now, you have to be mentally strong in this game or it will destroy you. Thankfully for me, I’m quite tough upstairs so I stayed strong.
“People who know me know what I’m all about. I love playing football, I love playing for Sunderland and the things whch happened were so disiappointing. I’m just happy with what has happened.
“I knew I had to offer this club a little bit more than I had at the time.
“I thought at the time my Sunderland career was over but the manager has come in, he’s given me a new lease of life and here we are talking about a 1-0 win over Manchester City. It’s mad.”
Sunday’s winner should be a major turning point for Sunderland, who travel to Stoke after the international break desperate to turn their away form around.
Bardsley sensed a togetherness in the crowd as they overturned the odds to defeat City.
He said: “I was over the advertising hoardings and I think two people in the crowd patted me on the back. That was nice.
“A few months ago I would probably have got chinned there! I hope they know what I’m about.
“I’m one of these footballers who, when I cross the white line, I’ll put in performances where I wear my heart on my sleeve and when I get the ball I try to be brave with it.
“The supporters probably don’t know the full extent of what happened over the summer. “It’s history now. There’s a new manager, a new lease of life and I’m loving playing under Gus Poyet.”