Bardsley struggled following his comeback in October after the ankle problem which ruled him out of Sunderland’s entire pre-season, plus the first two months of the campaign, left him short on match sharpness.
Phil Bardsley: “I probably rushed back a little bit because I was so desperate to get back.
“I’d missed a large chunk of the season and you forget the things you do well and don’t do well when you’re out the team and out of training for so long.
“It’s quite difficult to grasp it. But the last few weeks I’ve felt more like myself and hopefully it can continue like that.
“It’s vital pre-season. Let’s not kid anyone, it’s clear for everyone to see how important it was.
“I was back in training and playing games, but I still felt I was miles away. It was a difficult time. The injury took so much out of me.
“I got back in and you think you can pick up where you were the season before, but I was miles off it.
“I wasn’t under any illusions that I was playing the best football of my career because it was far from it. But the last few weeks I’ve felt as good as ever.
“You want to play every game, but the manager was brilliant with me.
“He pulled me aside and gave me his words and I respected his decision.
“I didn’t really have a leg to stand on about being taken out of the fire for a bit.
“It’s probably the best thing that’s happened to me because I’ve felt miles better since I’ve come back.
“Hopefully I can get back to somewhere near how I was over the last few seasons.”