PHIL Bardsley wants to see Sunderland finally convert 45-minute performances into 90-minute ones. But still he thinks the opening stages of today’s Premier League visit of Chelsea will be crucial.
The Black Cats go into it on the back of arguably their best half of football this season. The trouble is, it followed their worst. None of Sunderland’s best league performances this season – Everton and Fulham away also spring to mind – have been sustained over a full game.
“We’ve got to put the full 90 minutes in,” Bardsley stressed. “At Everton the first half was sensational football we played, and the second half at Norwich. It’s up to us to put that into a full 90 minutes from the first whistle.
“Chelsea have struggled a bit of late and changed their manager, which is always a tough thing to happen during a season.
“It’s up to us when they come here to make it even harder for them.” Bardsley thinks the key is starting well, playing on the insecurities of a Chelsea side without a win in their last seven league matches and settling the nerves of a Stadium of Light crowd who have only seen one at home since March.
“I think it’s even more
important (than usual),” said Bardsley of the start. “Our second-half performance against Norwich was outstanding. If we can start like that I’m sure we can cause them problems. Coming up here’s not the easiest place in the world with the conditions and the cold at this time of year. We’ll put them to the full test and hopefully get a result.
“It’s our responsibility. We’re in this position and we’ve got to win games. In the dressing room there’s enough quality to win football matches but it’s all right saying it, we have to go out there and do it.
“The second half performance against Norwich was more like a Sunderland football team and if we can produce some of that I’m sure we can get a result.”
Sunderland have found the going tougher on Wearside this season.
“It’s been edgy when you give a pass away,” Bardsley said. “It’s difficult as players. It’s not like the lads go out and don’t want to win a football match. We all want to win – players, fans, staff. It’s not like anyone’s going out there and not trying but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
“Sometimes you can try too hard and when little things go wrong the whole place feels a bit anxious, a little bit nervy. But we’ve got to take confidence from that second-half performance against Norwich and hopefully the fans’ll be roaring and push us over the line.
“If we can start bright, get about them, get some early challenges in, that will happen.”
Sunderland can take confidence from the fact they lifted themselves out of a near-identical league position this time last year, and their impressive home record at home to the league’s glamour boys in recent years.
“We won some important games last season and it’s not easy to win football matches in the Premier League,” said Bardsley.
“I’m sure with the sort of players we have we can create chances and hopefully convert them.”
Meanwhile, manager Martin O’Neill will give thought to recalling David Meyler (pictured above) from his two-month loan at Hull City after fellow midfielder Lee Cattermole was ruled out until February. “I’ll give that some consideration,” he said.
Meyler is beyond the initial 28-day period of the loan, during which he could not be recalled.