Gary Gardner – the Comeback Kid
We’ve been describing Gary Gardner as the second coming for Aston Villa since we started this website. He’s been in need of a resurrection or two, with serious injuries, but is next season the beginning of something beautiful? Shelly looks at Gardner Jr’s attributes and why he could be key to Villa’s future.
As Paul Lambert’s young Lions top up their tans on the beach or hit the strip in Las Vegas, Bodymoor Heath with be the last thing on their minds. Niggling knocks, frayed nerves and heavy legs will be soothed as the youngsters kick back and enjoy the summer sun (and no doubt allow themselves the odd mojito or two). Already on social media sites, holiday photographs of players wearing shocking pink shorts, red faces and over-size hip hop caps are appearing in numbers, and no Villa fan will surely begrudge Paul Lambert’s men a well-earned summer rest.
One player who will be itching to get back on the training pitch in contrast to his team mates however is, Gary Gardner. The 20-year-old central midfielder has been starved of football in the past few seasons due to two cruel knee injuries.
Gardner is often compared to his hero, Steven Gerrard, as he is an English ‘box-to-box‘ midfielder. These players are less common in countries like Italy and Spain where coaches seem to prefer more fashionable midfield systems which include players assigned to specific roles. However, one very successful modern coach who always looks to have a traditional English box to box midfielder in his team is Jose Mourinho. Jose said whilst Real Madrid boss,
“In football we have attacking midfielders and we have defensive midfielders but there are very few what they call in England box-to-box midfielders. It is very difficult to find the complete midfielder who is defensively strong and who can also attack and arrive in the box and score goals.”
Step forward – Gary Gardner. The Solihull youngster is the complete package as a midfielder and it is hoped by fans that he will become an important player in Paul Lambert’s exciting project. Lambert himself will be delighted to find in Gardner a young player who is committed to his boyhood club and eager to make a career for himself at Villa Park.
Gardner is an athletic 6ft 2 boy who, like his older brother Craig, has an impressive work rate and stamina which sets him apart from other players. Some fans may remember that Gardner featured in central midfield alongside Jean Makoun and Barry Bannan against Chelsea in a preseason game a couple of seasons ago where he controlled the game, made tackles, linked moves together, and snapped at the heels of Chelsea’s expensive super stars. It was a performance that instantly made an impression.
Gardner has a similar skill set to Wigan’s James McCarthy in that he reasonably strong in the tackle, has an impressive passing range and can drive from midfield and score goals like Gerrard or Frank Lampard. Gardner is not just a player who ploughs the furrows of centre midfield however as he possesses a good technique, can dribble well, scores headed goals and has even scored a high quality free kick for England under 21’s against Iceland in late 2011.
The confidence of young Gardner was evident as he took the ball from a hovering Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, placed the ball down and curled a free kick expertly into the top corner of the net. Gardner scored again with a trademark goal as he arrived late in the box and hit a low strike powerfully home. There are in fact few better sights than watching Gardner arriving unmarked on the edge of the area, getting into position and unleashing one of his quality strikes on goal.
Aston Villa’s 2012 / 2013 Next Gen Series winners will be basking in the glory of this season’s memorable victory, but Villa fans will also remember that it was Gardner who became the competitions top scorer last season with a 6 goals from central midfield. Gardner was without doubt one of the players of the season in the inaugural Next Gen Series campaign and Aston Villa were very unlucky to be knocked out of the competition in a controversial quarter final against Marseille.
Villa fans will no doubt now be anxious to see what role Gardner plays for the club next season now that he is fit.
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