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Aston Villa`s Hot Prospect - Craig Gardner

With all the speculation surrounding Gareth Barry at the moment, I have decided to write about someone else who is on the path to becoming a Villa great. Someone who is an Aston Villa fan, someone who has come through the youth system, someone who has become a regular and to a certain extent a fan favourite. No not Gabby Agbonlahor, but Craig Gardner.

I first became aware of Craig like many fans, when he made his first team debut on Boxing Day, 2005. It was against Everton at Villa Park and he came on from off the bench to replace another young midfielder, Steven Davis. But it was the goal he scored against Bolton on the last day of that season that really caught my imagination. I couldn`t believe we had a player who had cost us nothing scoring a goal like that. After years of having young strikers come through the ranks, we finally we had an exciting midfielder, and someone I thought at the time looked even better than Davis.

Following the sale of Aaron Hughes and with Mark Delaney`s retirement, it soon became apparent that Martin O`Neill was not going to bring in a right back, he turned to our former captain Olof Mellberg to fill the gap until someone could be brought in, unlike most it was something that didn`t really bother me too much as Mellberg had covered Hughes a lot the previous season and to be fair was twice the player Hughes was, even out of position. But Olly would need cover and up stepped Craig Gardner. Unlike many players who have complained about being out of position over the years he followed Gabby`s example (Gabby had played out of position on the right wing) and got his head down and gave 110% every game he played, sure Gardner made mistakes, like any 20 year old would, out of position or not. But Gardner proved he would do anything for his club, even if it meant playing in this alien position.

After the season ended we all hoped that a right back would be brought in. Arsenal`s Justin Hoyte among others were strongly linked, and with Olof Mellberg moving to Juventus to fulfil his dream of playing Champions League football (sound familiar) it was obvious the problem needed to be addressed. So far, it hasn`t been. And as the season fast approaches it looks like Gardner may continue to take on the role.

Now what disappoints me is that Gabby gets lots of praise for improving, his touch is better, he has scored and assisted more last year than the previous season blah blah blah, and yet no-one seems to remember that Craig Gardner is improving too, he may not be the best right back in the league, he may well be being played out of position but he is still improving with every game that passes.

I do often wonder how long it will take of him playing there before people will recognise him as a right back; Gareth Barry went through a similar transitional period himself when he moved to midfield from defence. But there must have been a point when people started to say, Barry is a midfielder. At what point does Gardner become a right back? He has spent a season there already, okay not the best right back, but I would argue Gabby is not the best striker we could have at the squad either.

Whatever happens is down to Martin O`Neill, he may decide that Gardner, who is actually the first choice right back for England Under 21`s, keeping out all the "real" right backs in his age group or he may sign someone else.

I think this is going to be a big year for our Craig; will he have the opportunity to play Central Midfield and wow us all with more superb strikes? Or will he continue to develop as a right back? Whatever happens I am sure he will go on to become a great Villa player. One thing is for sure 2008/09 season is the biggest season of this lad`s career so far!!

Oh and his free kicks are sweet too!!




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The Journalist

Writer: Dan Jones  Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday August 1 2008

Time: 11:45AM

Your Comments

Here here Dan i agree with you there. An excellent prospect.
nottinghamvillain
Craig Gardener is my pet hate.. perhaps unfairly so cuz as you say he does knuckle down, but the guy can't pass forwards and loses the ball too much in my humble opinion. If we don't get a proper right back we're in trouble this season! Good article though :)
SchoolBoyError
he's a really bad right back, pity he hasn't had much of a go in the centre of the park and he probably wont this year if we keep barry and sign a few more players like we are supposed to be. he has a cracking shot though.
liamo1981
can't pass forwards? Loses the ball? You not confusing him with Reo-Coker??? And I LIKE Reo-Coker too!
simonbigron
Good article and nice to read something that is not focussed on GB - Gordon Brown or Gareth Barry, neither of who have got the guts to make a proper decision. Hope he makes it. Could argue he lacks a bit of finesse and gets caught out of position - but he is still learning. Makes me wonder who will come through this year. Heaven knows we need a few to show up.
Gordonsleftboot
He has no pace and that is his downfall, so definitely not a right back. He has good attacking instincts and needs to go back in midfield, but I think his lack of pace will stop him progressing to be a top player - mind you I thought the same of Gareth Barry!
AVGD
Please please put this lad in CM he's quality
PTP
Exactly AVGD, I think he'll develope into the same kind of player as Barry, he's a natural replacement even if he doesn't show all of the quality at the moment. Gareth Barry but with Craig Gardners shot would be an exiting thing to see. Plus..
PTP
I think the Gardner thing does provoke debate, nice lad and gives 110% bit weak at the back but given time like any youngster who knows, would prefer another right back though.
young_jonah
Definitely see him more in mid then right back, but a cracking player, can see him serving us well for years to come
steff_the_villan
He needs a good run in center midfield, I'm a big fan but he's no right back.
chris the villan
He would do a lot more than petrov who i think is cack.
chris the villan
Great article YJ, must admit I still see his future in midfield, a future captain maybe?
The Fear
Good article, hopefully will get more chances in midfield, i think playing him at right back will damage his confidence over time..
Eircol
Too right Chris, I find it hard to believe people who try to tell me Petrov is any good and since that goal there have been a few. Craig probably wont get his chance in midfield now that Sidwells come in, NRC is too important to replace with Craig, and MON feels responsible for Petrov being a depressed chronic masterbater so he lets him play football to take his mind off the stress of it all. Such a shame if he doesn't get a good go.
PTP
i remember being very shocked when MON said Davis could leave and he could stay, after it looked for a while like Davies was the only bit of quality in the villa side (a couple of years ago now i might add) but now i see he is a great prospect for the club and deserves to be plying his trade in and around our first team
samd577
great little article Dan, agree with you but i feel he will show us his potential in the middle of the park taking over the mantle from Baryy when he goes. everything i read about him is positive and he does have a sweet right foot!!!
Upthevilla_83
Good refreshing piece. IMO I think Craig is as good as any RB in the UK at his age. He very well suited for the role and will obviously continue to improve, but I feel we need seasoned experience across the whole of the back line. The centre defence will be top-notch with Laursen and Davies but we definitely need 2 top class age 25+ backs at left and right. Miguel at Valencia would be my choice at R and thought Shorey at LB could have shadowed Bouma but he too is short on experience to be first choice, probanly for a year or more. I'm sure O'Neill will do what's best. An impregnable degence will earn us many more points this season aqnd will is a "must" for European conquests.
villacross
Craig Gardner is improving but he aint no right back. Craig should be concentrating on his midfield duties........come MON get that RB.
bellywipes
When given his chance in the middle of the park, he will be quality! His future is as a CM, and playing at RB has done him no harm as it will only improve his game, especially defensively - he has a great attitude as well as he puts the team first. Playing RB isnt also a new position for him as he does play there for the U21's. Im a massive fan of him, and hope he gets the chance to shine in midfield
JOHN.CAREWS.CREW
my favourite player , I just wish mon would give him a run in midfield and stop buying players like Coco and Sidwell when we already have a better player in young Craig!
Villan57
I just hope that Craig's Villa Park career insn't hindered by the spectre of him being played at right full back throughout the upcoming season. He may grow into the role, somehow I doubt it. There's a decent midfielder in there, a midfielder capable of scoring a few goals too, but as a right back, I personally think he's wasted, and more importantly, something of a liability.
glensider
Interestingly enough, although I haven't seen him play yet, they say that Craig's younger brother is an equally bright prospect, so looks like we could be well served in the immediate future by the Gardner boys.
glensider
I like the sound of that, good honest Villa fans manning our midfield. Thats what we need
PTP
 

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