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Aston Villa`s Hot Prospect - Craig Gardner

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!!

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Dan Jones
Date:Friday August 1 2008
Time: 11:45AM


Here here Dan i agree with you there. An excellent prospect.
01/08/2008 11:51:00
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 :)
01/08/2008 12:05:00
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.
01/08/2008 12:13:00
can't pass forwards? Loses the ball? You not confusing him with Reo-Coker??? And I LIKE Reo-Coker too!
01/08/2008 12:13:00
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!
01/08/2008 12:15:00
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.
01/08/2008 12:15:00
Please please put this lad in CM he's quality
01/08/2008 12:32:00
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..
01/08/2008 12:35:00
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.
01/08/2008 12:56:00
Definitely see him more in mid then right back, but a cracking player, can see him serving us well for years to come
01/08/2008 13:01:00
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