AN EMOTIONAL Phil Bardsley says it will be “something special” to go with Sunderland to Wembley after marking his six-year anniversary at the Stadium of Light in style.
The former Manchester United defender helped Sunderland reach their first major final since 1992 last night after a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory at Old Trafford secured a place in the Capital One Cup final, against Manchester City, on Sunday, March 2.
It was six years to the day since Bardsley arrived on Wearside from Manchester United after Roy Keane brought him to the club in a £2million deal.
But after being ostracised by ex-boss Paolo Di Canio at the start of the season and falling out of favour on the terraces, Sunderland’s longest-serving first-teamer was at a loss for words at the turnaround in his Black Cats career in front of a 9,000-strong ecstatic away end.
Bardsley told the Echo: “My emotions are going through the roof. I don’t know what to say.
“I’m not sure I’ll be allowed back into Salford, but it doesn’t matter.
“Sunderland are going to Wembley and that’s all that matters to me.
“Massive gratitude to Roy Keane for bringing me to such a fantastic football club. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
“To take this club to Wembley and to be part of such a great day out will be phenomenal.
“There were 9,000 there last night and they never cease to amaze me when they travel away in their thousands.
“I probably wasn’t one of their popular players six months ago, but that’s football.
“Hopefully I’ve turned that around and being part of this club going to Wembley is something special.”
Bardsley looked like he was going to be Sunderland’s last-gasp hero when United keeper David De Gea spilled his shot with a minute remaining of extra-time.
That gave the Black Cats the advantage on aggregrate, but, within seconds, their ecstasy had turned to despair when Javier Hernandez’s equaliser took the game to penalties.
But after a penalty shoot-out when the finishing from both sides was atrocious, Sunderland prevailed 2-1.
Bardsley said: “What a spectacle for the neutral and what a game!
“I thought we deserved to win it.
“We created some chances. Maybe not that many clear-cut, but chances.
“But I thought the energy we showed was phenomenal.
“I had a shot on target, he had to save it and he didn’t. Simple as that!”
When asked about the shoot-out, he replied: “Shambles, wasn’t it!
“I don’t care. It can be as bad as anything, we’re through and going to Wembley.”