Bardsley happy with Cats form
Bardsley felt his time at Sunderland was at risk after losing his right-back berth to Alan Hutton last season when the Tottenham defender was on loan at the Stadium of Light. He could now line up alongside Hutton for Scotland in Wednesday's Carling Nations Cup clash against Northern Ireland in Dublin after emerging as one of Sunderland's top performers this season. The former Manchester United player pinpointed his spell training under Foster Jr and former British super-middleweight champion Ensley Bingham as the key to his success. Bardsley, who made his Scotland debut in the 3-2 defeat by Spain in November, said: "I am maturing and I gave myself the best opportunity I could in the summer. "There were rumours of me leaving Sunderland and I felt I had to do something about it. "I did a little bit over the summer in terms of getting fit before I went back to training and I'm reaping the rewards now." The 25-year-old added: "I went away and got my feet up for a couple of weeks and before I went back I went to a boxing training camp, which stood me in good stead for the season. "It was something I felt I needed to do, to give myself the best possible start I could. "I was down at Champ's Camp at Moss Side in Manchester with Ensley Bingham and my friend, Steve Foster Jr. I got myself in tip-top condition. "I owe a lot of credit to the lads who helped me out." Bardsley does not intend to go beyond the initial fitness training though. "When they asked me to spar, I ran off," he said. "I didn't fancy sparring." The defender could not be enjoying his football any more with Sunderland firmly placed in the top half of the Premier League. "I've just been trying to enjoy it as much as I can," he said. "If people have watched me, the smile on my face is always there. I am enjoying myself more than ever. "I would say I'm playing the best football I've played for a long time. I'm playing consistently every week and enjoying it. "If you enjoy your football, I think everything else off the field falls into place. "You are happy in your life and then that shows on the pitch. Hopefully that can continue because I love playing football." Bardsley again finds himself competing with Hutton for the right-back slot but he has recently played on the left side of defence, often a problem position for Scotland in the past few years. "Tottenham are doing well, Alan has been doing well," Bardsley said. "I've been playing pretty well at Sunderland as well. I have been playing left-back as well. "It's up to the manager whichever team he selects. I'll just focus on doing well in training and hopefully get a start. "I don't focus too much on that. I've played right-back and left-back for Sunderland this season. "If called upon I've done the best job I can. If that's to be for Scotland, there are some good right-backs but the way I've been playing lately I'm as confident as anybody. "As long as I'm in the team, I'm happy. Wherever that may be, I'll try to do the best I can for the country." Bardsley has no regrets about pledging his allegiance to Scotland last year, a decision which delighted his Glasgow-born father, who Scotland manager Craig Levein last week revealed was in tears watching his son face Spain. "He's an emotional guy anyway," Bardsley said. "He's tough but he's emotional. "It was a great moment for him and for my family to be playing for Scotland. "He loved every minute and he's just proud that his son is playing for his country. "We had talked about it a couple of times. When Walter Smith asked me a few years ago I was still a young lad learning my trade. "I felt the time was right now to commit myself and I'm delighted to have done it."