By Amir Mir
Aston Villa midfielder Gary Gardner is keen to use his Championship experience to help kick-start his career and help the club win promotion back to the Premier League.
Despite the Midlands club being in an unfamiliar position in the Championship, Gardner has a wealth of experience in the second-tier, having had loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday, Brighton and most recently Nottingham Forrest.
The 24-year-old graduated through the Villa academy in 2011, but has seen his game time reduced to just 16 games, with loan spells and injuries playing a part.
However, Gardner now wants to get back on track with Villa and help the club in their fight for promotion in the forthcoming Championship season.
“I’ve missed too much football at Aston Villa so now I want to play,” Gardner told the Birmingham Mail. “I don’t want to sit around and watch. I feel fresh and fit now and I’m here to play football.
“I’m just looking forward to the season, I am back at Villa now on the back of a good finish to last season where I played 25 games.
“I’ve worked my socks off over the summer and I’m feeling good and looking forward to it I’ve played 60-odd games in the Championship, too.
“I’m used to that league so I’m not here to sit around and watch anymore.”
Villa produced their worst season in the club’s 141-year history last season as they picked up a miserable 17 points as they were relegated into the second-tier for the first time since 1987.
But, Gardner who has played a part in the club’s five pre-season wins this summer, most recently against League two Cambridge where he found the net, was insistent that the squad is ready for a gruelling Championship campaign.
“The gaffer has seen me in training and he knows what he wants now,” said Gardner. “It was good to get 90 minutes under my belt last night and great to get a goal as well.”
“This is probably the toughest pre-season ever. The lads are really fit because we’ve done a lot of running. But the boys have handled it well and we’re looking forward to the new season now.”
Recently appointed manager Roberto Di Matteo has the task of rebuilding a squad of players that picked up only three Premier League wins last season.
The Italian’s first game in charge of the Villa Park club is against last season’s losing Championship play-off finalists Sheffield Wednesday on 7 August.
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