PHIL BARDSLEY hopes Sunderland will beat the drop, ahead of this weekend’s reunion with his ex-club.
Bardsley was a key figure in the Sunderland side that successfully secured Premier League survival in each of the last two seasons, yet after joining Stoke on a Bosman last summer, he has watched from afar this time around as the Black Cats have been embroiled in a third successive battle against relegation.
I will be hoping that they can pull themselves out of the position that they are in at the momentPHIL BARDSLEY
The 29-year-old still has many friends on Wearside after becoming Sunderland’s record appearance-maker in the Premier League during his six-and-a-half years at the Stadium of Light.
And while Bardsley, who has been on the bench for Stoke during the last month, will set aside any old pals act at the Britannia Stadium this weekend, he does want Sunderland to still be in the Premier League next season.
Bardsley said: “I have so many friends there and as time goes by those friends will move on, but yeah, there are a good number of people at the club that I still speak to.
“After this game, of course, I will be hoping that they can pull themselves out of the position that they are in at the moment and look forward to facing them in the Premier League 12 months from now.”
Bardsley’s current employers have endured no such problems this season.
The ninth placed Potters are on course for a second successive top 10 finish after victory over Southampton last weekend.
And with Mark Hughes’ men just one point behind Swansea, Bardsley says the aim at the Britannia is to break into the top eight.
“We are more than good enough to secure top 10 finishes season in, season out, but the key is going out there, working hard and doing that,” he added.
“We have seen many teams, whose aspirations were similar if not greater than ours, finish in lowly positions and even on the odd occasion suffer relegation.
“You can’t ever take anything for granted and we won’t do that.
“It is vital for us to try to finish in the top eight this year, it would be a huge step forward.
“A top 10 spot is a real achievement given the quality of players and sides in this league, but finishing eighth would be incredibly satisfying for us all.”