PHIL BARDSLEY spoke of his Capital One Cup heartbreak after Sunderland were beaten 3-1 by Manchester City at Wembley yesterday.
Bardsley has been one of the success stories of the season for the Black Cats after being dropped and suspended by Paolo Di Canio, but was brought back into the fold by manager Gus Poyet, a journey that led to the full-back playing a pivotal role in Sunderland's trip to Wembley.
And Bardsley, who will represent Scotland this week against Poland, admitted that his personal feelings following yesterday's defeat were bittersweet.
“Today was one of the best and worst days of my career,” said Bardsley after the full-time whistle.
“Losing a cup final is hard, it’s difficult to accept.
“But I’ll dust myself off and meet up with Scotland tomorrow for the Poland game.
“That’s all you can do, you just have to dust yourself off and look towards the next game.
“It’s part of being a football player. It’s a rollercoaster and you never know what’s round the corner.”
Bardsley was suspended by Di Canio for making light of Sunderland's opening day defeat to Fulham in August on social networking site Instagram, but was restored to the line-up when Poyet was installed as manager in October.
The defender is a key part of the dressing room, with Poyet bringing him back into the team after seeing how popular he is among Sunderland's players.
“People know me as a person, they know what I’m all about and I just try to make sure I don’t leave anything in the dressing-room,” said Bardsley.
“Attitude is a big factor in football and in life.
"If you show the right kind of commitment and attitude on the pitch then you always have a chance.
"I thought we showed that attitude today." Sunderland were roared on by 40,000 supporters at Wembley yesterday, outnumbering and outsinging Manchester City's fans for long spells, and the fans were rewarded by Fabio Borini's tenth minute goal only to see City hit back in spectacular fashion through Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas in the second half.
The Sunderland fans enjoy their day at Wembley
And Bardsley paid tribute to the fans, who stayed behind after the full-time whistle to show their appreciation for Poyet's side.
“Going out for the warm up was one of the most touching moments I’ve had in a long time,” said Bardsley. “The roar when we went out there was something special.
“It was unique and we wish we could have done it for the supporters.
“I’ve been here six years now and it would have been terrific to lift the trophy.
“But it wasn’t to be.
“It was a fantastic performance by the lads so it’s disappointing we didn’t win.”
Bardsley admitted that on the day, City's class shone through, and that there was no shame in losing to their more illustrious opponents.
“We were done by two wondergoals and I don’t think any team or goalkeeper would have stopped that,” said Bardsley.
“We were well and truly in the game and deserved to be in front during the first half.
“And if it wasn’t for a great tackle by Vincent Kompany [on Borini] we probably would have been two up.
“There was a lot of emotion today, from driving to the stadium and seeing the supporters to losing the game.
“You can’t fault anyone – the manager, players, coaching staff or the fans.
“Everyone should be proud of getting here and the way we played.”
Meanwhile, John O'Shea was struggling to see the positives from the cup final defeat last night.
“We are terribly disappointed. The only way you enjoy a cup final is by winning it,” said the former Manchester United centre-half.
“We started the game exactly how we wanted. The counter-attack was great, we scored a fantastic goal and had a couple more chances.
“They’ve scored a great goal to get back into it. We were hoping to get a free-kick on the edge of the box. It wasn’t to be. Maybe we should have got out to him, but, look, he’s stuck it in the top corner from 30 yards out.
“Then we lost a bit of our organisation in the next few minutes and it has cost us for the second goal.
The players show their appreciation
“We went and had a few half-chances. City finished the game very strong. It’s not a nice place now and we have a huge test for the rest of the season to pick ourselves up very quickly and I’m sure we will.”