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The full-back, frozen out by the Italian, says he was fit and ready for the new Premier League season, and has urged the Black Cats to build on their win over Manchester City

Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley has rubbished former manager Paolo Di Canio's claims that the Black Cats players were unfit.

The Italian recently described fitness levels at the Stadium of Light as "pathetic", but Scotland international Bardsley, who scored in the recent win over Manchester City, has hit back.

The full-back, who had previously been frozen out by the ex-Swindon boss, says he spent the off-season in the boxing gym and was fit and raring to go ahead of the new Premier League season.

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“I spent the summer in the boxing gym and I do it every summer,” Bardsley told reporters.

“This year I was with Jamie Moore and Stevie Foster Junior at the gym in Salford. I wouldn’t get in with them though – they’re too tough for me!

“I trained over the summer boxing. I came back fit and wanted to be as ready as I could be for whatever happened.

“Unfortunately I broke my foot in a daft challenge and I remember thinking at the time ‘Can this get any worse?'

“People at the football club said to me [the injury] was the best thing that happened because I could have been on my way out. That’s a nice little thing for people to say, but it hurt though!”

Sunderland have won twice following the arrival of Gus Poyet, moving off the foot of the table, but Bardsley is keen for the club to build on their win over Man City as they attempt to climb out of the relegation zone.

“We’ve got to build on what we did against Manchester City,” Bardsley said.

“That was a great in, but there’s still a long way for us to go and we’ve got to show the same commitment and desire that we showed in that game for the rest of the season now.”

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