EXCLUSIVE By Pete O’Rourke

Aston Villa midfielder Gary Gardner is closing in on a move to Barnsley, Football Insider can reveal.

Gardner is currently not in the starting line-up at Villa and the 25-year-old is ready to move on in search of regular first-team football.

A well-placed source has told Football Insider that a number of Championship clubs have shown an interest in Gardner, but Barnsley are in pole position to land the goalscoring midfielder, who is a product of the club’s academy.

The former England Under-21 international has made only one appearance in the League Cup this season in the 4-1 win over Wigan.

The all-action midfielder was regarded as one of the best prospects when he broke into the Villa side as a teenager, but several changes to management personnel have held up the progress.

Gardner made 27 appearances in all competitions for Villa last season, scoring a spectacular goal for the club in the 1-1 derby draw with Birmingham City in October, but Villa boss Steve Bruce is happy to let him move to free up space in his squad.

Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom is a big fan of Gardner and sees him as being a key addition to his plans at Oakwell.

In other Aston Villa transfer news, the club have ambushed Leeds’ attempt to sign a £59,000-a-week ace.

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