SCOTLAND manager Gordon Strachan was today poised to recall Phil Bardsley to the national squad almost two years since the Sunderland defender’s last international appearance.
Bardsley last donned the dark blue shirt in May 2012 as Scotland were humiliated 5-1 by the United States in an end-of-season friendly in Florida. He has never played under Strachan but is due to take his place in the squad for the friendly against Poland on 5 March.
A player who can operate at right or left-back, Bardsley has enjoyed something of a renaissance at club level in recent months following the appointment of Gus Poyet as Sunderland manager. The 28-year-old had fallen out with Paolo di Canio, Poyet’s predecessor, but has been restored to the starting line-up since the Uruguayan arrived on Wearside.
A return to the international arena will complete a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the player, who has amassed 12 Scotland caps to date and proved himself a reliable defender whenever called upon.
Dundee United’s left-back Andrew Robertson could also join Bardsley in the squad with his maiden call-up despite being only 19 years old.
Poyet, meanwhile, is hopeful that Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher will be fit to face Arsenal in the Capital One Cup final on 2 March. The Scotland international has missed his club’s past three games due to a niggling Achilles problem but is due to resume training.
Depending on his recovery rate, Fletcher may even come into contention for Sunderland’s Premier League trip to Arsenal on Saturday.
“Perfection would be for him to play against Arsenal. I would like to have him for then, even if it’s on the bench,” said Poyet. “That would be a great situation for him to feel part of the group again and playing. If not, I would like to think he will be all right for the final.
“He’s had a programme with the expectation that he will be able to play at Arsenal.”