By Will Butcher

Aston Villa centre-midfielder Gary Gardner believes the Villains squad is capable of an instant return to the Premier League under Roberto Di Matteo.

Talking to the Express & Star, the 24-year-old believes he knows the Championship well enough to make the prediction that Villa will be back in the Premier League come the 2017-18 season.

“It was tough for the boys last year but I know this year they’ll be fine,” he said.

“I’ve played in the Championship and we have enough quality to get back out of there. Every team has a difficult period but I think we’ll be alright and hopefully we should bounce straight back.”

The England under-21 intentional, who has had five loan spells away from Villa Park during his career, spent last season with Championship rivals Nottingham Forest, where he made 22 Championship appearances.

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.

Gardner has played a part in the club’s five pre-season wins this summer, most recently against League Two Cambridge where he found the back of the net.

Recently appointed 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.

In other Villa news, this flop is set to get another chance to earn a Sunderland contract on Saturday.