Midfielder Gary Gardner is now back training and fit and he’s looking to finally try and make an impact in the coming weeks on Tim Sherwood’s first team squad.
With everybody knowing the injury issues that Gardner had coming through the Under 21 ranks and the club and the early potential he showed, it’s fair to say that doubts – because of the time he’s lost through injury – continue to be had about whether he can reach the potential we all thought he would all those years ago, and in the five starts and 13 substitute appearances he’s had in the first team he hasn’t set the world alight.
But again niggly injuries and the lack of a consistent run in the side certainly haven’t helped that.
His last appearance for us came way back in the two all draw against Wigan in the 2012-13 season – (May 19, 2013) – prior to that it was West Ham (August 12, 2012).
We’ll never know what he’s capable of without a run, and since last wearing our shirt with a mix of being overlooked and injured, he has had spells out on loan with Sheffield Wednesday, Brighton and Hove Albion and Nottingham Forest last year, where he did look impressive and won reviews for a more defensive performance under Dougie Freedman – but again returning to us he’s been battling fitness.
Speaking to the Official Site with him now having been in training for a few weeks, and got a behind closed doors friendly under his belt that saw him find the net, he explained.
‘I’ve been back in training for a couple of weeks. I played 45 minutes in a behind-closed-doors reserve game – and scored. That was a great feeling. Obviously I need more minutes in my legs but I’m feeling good overall. My ankle feels fine so that’s the main thing.’
Gardner said it was unfortunate picking up the injury in the pre season Swindon friendly, but it was an awful tackle and it took him eight weeks before he could start training properly and that was frustrating because he wanted this to be his year.
‘It was eight weeks before I was back in training. I was frustrated to get injured when I did because I was raring to go for the new season. But I worked hard during my rehab to come back stronger. I’m normally used to long-term rehab so that was quite quick for me. It’s never good to be injured but I know what to do to get back and playing. To score a goal this past week was brilliant. It gave me a nice boost and I want to push on now and hit the ground running and help the team.’
With Chelsea next up, you’d imagine that this game would be too soon for even a substitute return, but Gardner did debut against them at Stamford Bridge back in 2011.
‘I’ll never forget my competitive professional debut against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in December 2011. I just remember warming up and the gaffer Alex McLeish shouted ‘Gaz, you’re on’. It was 1-1 at the time and there were 20 minutes to go. I went on to try and keep that score. We’d have taken a draw from that point but ended up winning 3-1. It was all a blur and a dream come true to make my debut there. It was a great moment.’
Chelsea is pretty significant for him in his development as his non competitive debut was also against them.
‘Funnily enough, I made my senior debut in a Barclays Asia Trophy match in Hong Kong against Chelsea. Chelsea are obviously a significant opponent for me!’
The aim obviously is to get himself going now though and become a regular and important member of the first team.
‘My main aim is to become established. Sometimes you can’t help situations that come about. The tackle in pre-season was totally out of my hands. I work hard, I look after myself and I think that’s why I come back well from my injuries. I don’t think many people would’ve coped with that I’ve been through but I’ve come through it. I don’t drink and I look after my body – that’s why I come back well. I’m a Villa player and that’s where I want to be. I want to push on now.’
As for Villa’s season on a whole so far with only one Premier League win this term, he ended his interview by saying that there was confidence in the camp that it would turn around and we would get ourselves going properly over the coming weeks as the team click more.
‘I’m very confident. The gaffer here has it right – he has everyone working. We have a lot of young lads and a lot of new players. It takes time to gel. We’ve got a lot of talent in this squad. You can see it. It’s still really early on in the season so I’m positive everything will be fine.’
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