GUS POYET says Phil Bardsley’s international recall caps a dramatic turnaround for the Sunderland defender after such a “dark” start to the season.
Bardsley was brought back into the Scotland fold this week after national team boss Gordon Strachan named the 28-year-old in the squad to face Poland in a friendly on Wednesday, March 5 – three days after the Capital One Cup final.
The full-back, who won the last of his Scotland caps in May 2012, was out of form when Strachan took charge just over a year ago and then found himself frozen out of the Sunderland first-team picture under ex-Black Cats boss Paolo Di Canio.
But Bardsley has been one of Sunderland’s most consistent performers under Poyet and the Uruguayan believes the former Manchester United’s man’s recall is just rewards for his efforts.
“What a season for Phil,” said Poyet.
“It started very dark for him and now he finds himself back in the national team.
“I hope he can take the opportunity and go there happy, because that will mean we’ve won the final!
“But without a doubt, Phil has been very special because of everything that happened before we came here.
“We gave him a second chance and he took it.
“Now he’s at the international level which he deserves.”
While Poyet is full of praise for Bardsley, he doesn’t want to single out Sunderland’s longest-serving first-team player as the only one who has impressed during his tenure.
The former Brighton boss believes there are several players in his ranks who have improved dramatically over the last five months and could earn themselves internaitonal call-ups if they maintain their current form.
“I could name five or six like Phil,” added Poyet.
“There are plenty of people that were not expecting to be so good and that’s been great.
“Sometimes it’s not easy to convince the players that if the team does well, you will be rewarded with a call-up.
“But they are getting recalled because they are performing and everyone benefits from that.”