Gary Gardner has had a stuttering season thus far. Coming through the academy and a lifelong Villa fan, he really is living every fan’s dream. Therefore, there has always been that hope and expectation that he can flourish in claret and blue.
In glimpses, we have seen what he can do. His goal against Birmingham City was a high-point that sticks out in my mind. However, consistently good performances from Gary Gardener have come only sporadically. If battling for promotion wasn’t a big enough incentive for him to perform, then Craig Gardner joining Birmingham City definitely will be. His older brother has joined the Blues on a loan deal until the end of the season. That signing has intensified what was an already pulsating prospect when Birmingham City come to Villa Park on April 23rd 2017.
In his relatively short career so far, Gary has been in the shadow of his brother Craig. Infuriating injuries throughout his career have meant that his first team opportunities have been infrequent in claret and blue. I have not been a keen admirer of Gary’s performances in recent weeks, with his and Ashley Westwood’s pathetic showing in the first half against Cardiff City causing much frustration. However, there have been a few signs that he can live up to his potential. With the imminent signing of Henri Lansbury and the return from the wilderness of Aaron Tshibola, if Gardner does get another chance, he has to take it.
As he came through the Villa ranks, it was generally believed that Gary was a better footballer than his older brother. I have seen little, apart from a few exquisite strikes from his time at Nottingham Forest, to suggest that. It really is now or never for Gardner in claret and blue. Unlike his brother, who has done the “midlands merry-go-round” by playing for Villa, West Brom and Blues, I’m sure Gary will want to stay at Villa for as long as time permits. The way Craig has ridiculed Villa and the fact that he is a self-proclaimed “bluenose” makes me want Gary to succeed even more.
Both players play with passion and fight, perhaps compensating for their lack of technical ability. Whether or not they are both in the starting line-up come April, the signing of Craig Gardner by Birmingham City has amplified the rivalry between the two sides. The last time the Gardner brothers were on opposing sides on the football pitch was back in 2012. In that game, Gary didn’t come off the bench and Craig stole the headlines, as he got sent off for Sunderland against his former club in a goalless and rather forgettable stalemate.
Whilst Gary is a Villan, Craig is undoubtedly the villain and I would love for him to be on the losing side when Gary celebrates in front of what will undoubtedly be a packed Villa Park on April 23rd.