Phil Bardsley on football, fame and never forgetting his Salford roots
He’s a premier league footballer with a million-pound house, a glamorous TV star wife and super-powered sports car.
But Burnley footballer Phil Bardsley has never forgotten his Salford roots – or the value of money.
It is the motivation behind his new business venture launched this week, a new loyalty card with a whole raft of motoring discounts to help drivers get better deals on essential repairs and services.
Phil, who has launched the Ignition Card with his property developer pal Rob Jackson, says: “From growing up in Salford, I know how valuable money is to people, and to save money wherever you can is a big factor.
“We’re offering value for money. We always believe no matter how much money you’ve got everyone deserves to get a discount somewhere along the line, and that’s what the Ignition Card is all about, we’re trying to drive down the cost of motoring.”
Phil, 32, lived every schoolboy’s dream when at the age of 9 he was signed up by Manchester United – the team he and his family all supported.
He grew up on Littleton Road in Salford – just down the road from the United Youth Academy’s training ground – and where his mum and dad still run the local social club.
Phil recalls: “I grew up at United, I was signed for United at 9 years old. The training ground was at Littleton Road, I’d just walk across the road from home and be training at United. It was the dream, yeah.
“I’d train on a Monday and a Thursday night in the summer then I’d go home, launch my bag inside, have a bit of food then go out with my mates playing football.
“The coaches would be coming past later and I’d be playing in the streets with my mates. They must have thought “he’s crackers him”.
“I was there from 9 and left at 22, and I played at every age group.”
Phil left United in 2008, but remains a United fan.
He said: “It was sad to leave but the time was right, I felt like I needed to get away from where I was brought up. Being at United, it’s tough to get in. I played 18 times but it was difficult as they had some top players at the prime of their career.
“I felt a fresh challenge and moving away from home would be beneficial for me. And it was. I went to Sunderland and did six and a half years and loved it up there. It was brilliant.
“I was player of the year a couple of times, a couple of top ten finishes, got to a cup final, losing to City 3-1 was a bit of a sad day but it was all part of the process.
“I had some good times and some indifferent times. But I left there and did three years at Stoke City under Mark Hughes, before being signed for Burnley.”
Burnley are enjoying a cracking season under the leadership of Sean Dyche, and have high hopes of qualifying for European football next season after rising to 7th place in the Premier League.
And Phil is enjoying his football there. But, now 32, Phil says he does start to think about what the future holds when he eventually retires from the game.
He said: “I’ve got two years on my contract and the option to continue at Burnley. There’s still plenty of life left in the football side of it of for me.
“I’m 32, I look after myself, eat well, train as well as I can every day.
“I did my coaching badges last summer in Belfast did my B licence which I thought was really good, it was really interesting to see the other side of the game. I believe I’ve got something to offer coaching wise but the opportunities are few and far between. It’s up to me to go down that route if I really believe it, and I put my heart and soul into everything I do.
“But I’ve always been interested in off the field activities. So when me and Rob sat down to talk about the Ignition Card this took my interest straight away.”
It was football that actually brought Rob and Phil together – when both were cheering on their 9-year-old sons from the side of the football pitch in Wilmslow.
Rob is dad to Federico, 9 and Rosa, 8, while Phil has three sons Rocco, 9, Renz, 5, and Ralphi, 1, with his Real Housewives of Cheshire star wife Tanya, and her 16-year-old daughter Gabriella.
They have a mutual love for Manchester United, but also found a united vision when they started talking about the idea of a motoring loyalty card – where people pay a set annual fee of £29.99 and then get discounts at major motoring businesses, including up to 50 per cent off at Halfords and National Tyres, up to 25 per cent off at Avis rent-a-car and £50 off at British School of Motoring.
Phil said: “It’s to offer discounts from when you first start driving, to buying your car, repairs and then when you want to go off driving on your holiday. It’s based around getting the best discounts and saving money on your car.
“There are thousands of people we can help out there.
“Just because I’ve been successful and I’ve done alright in my career, lots of people have done alright for themselves, why can’t they benefit as well from getting a discount?
“Everyone is on a level playing field with this card in terms of getting a discount and that’s what it’s all about, whoever you are, as long as you’ve got a car we can help.”
Rob added: “Driving is a necessity these days for most people, but the motorist is always getting punished with tax on cars, tax on the fuel… We feel we’re the first to offer a discount card like this that you can use unlimited times over the year.”
Phil, who now drives a Mercedes, knows only too well the headaches and financial pitfalls that can come when first passing your driving test – as he memorably recalls.
He laughs: “I failed my theory twice, but I passed my driving test first time at the age of 17, only for the second week in a brand new Clio I stuck it through a cemetery wall.
“I tried to turn a corner in third gear, but ended up straight into a wall.
“That didn’t go down well with my gran because she’d given me the deposit for the car.
“I could have done with this discount card back then! But it’s perfect for any person, any age who wants to save a bit of money on their car.”
While fans of the Real Housewives of Cheshire will have seen Phil pop up on screen every now and again alongside wife Tanya, he says he tries not to get too involved in the filming on the ITVBe show.
He says: “Reality TV is not really for me, but it was something when I moved to Stoke ITV approached Tanya to see if she’d be interested.
“And I think the way she’s conducted herself, and seen her profile grow I think it’s a credit to her.
“She’s just been herself, anyone who knows her knows that’s what she’s about. She’s so funny, but that’s her all the time. I wouldn’t change her for the world, she’s brilliant.
“But away from all that she’s also a brilliant mother, she’s a decent wife, yeah! I wouldn’t swap her for the world. She works really hard, her jewellery brand is going really well and she deserves it, her shop is flying, the online stuff, and now she’s stocking in House of Fraser she’s done so well.
“I never say never about doing more telly, but at the moment I’m concentrating on my football and the Ignition Card.
“People say you should get your own show you two because you’re crackers you too, but I always say it’s up to ITV to get their hands in their pockets if they want that to happen!”
Fans of the show have seen Tanya describe how she wants another baby with Phil – and her hilarious plans to make sure it is a girl.
But Phil reckons he’s having none of it.
He says: “I’m due the snip I think!
“She’s trying to seduce me when I’m not looking, when my eyes are shut!
“Yes, we are interested in buying a bigger house, but we’re not interested in any more children yet.
“Besides with the kids I have Monday football, Tuesday boxing, Wednesday football, Thursday football and Friday have to travel to Saturday football Sunday football, it’s demanding. I can’t add any more ballet or football lessons on top of that!”
For info on the Ignition Card click HERE .