Nottingham Forest loanee Gary Gardner may be playing his way back into first-team contention at Aston Villa, with his form since Dougie Freedman took over hugely impressive.
Gardner has been utilised as a shielder at Forest since Freedman's appointment and he has performed admirably in the role.
The 22-year-old has offered great protection to his back-four, but he has also proven capable going forward and notched his first goal for the Reds against Blackpool this weekend.
He is rapidly becoming one of Forest's most influential players and he is showing that his future may lie at a higher level than in the Championship.
His good form is a bonus for Villa too, who are likely to see Gardner as someone who could be vital for the senior side next season - should he keep these standards up.
The central midfielder has only been given fleeting chances at Villa Park throughout his career so far, but with so many of their midfielders struggling of late he could force he is likely to be catching the eye of new boss Tim Sherwood.
|Team||Goals||Tackles||Interceptions||Headers won||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Carles Gil||Aston Villa||0||3||2||0||3||270|
|Tom Cleverley||Aston Villa||0||2||1||0||2||140|
|Fabian Delph||Aston Villa||0||9||6||3||3||270|
|Ashley Westwood||Aston Villa||0||4||6||1||3||194|
Gardner's stats over the past three games surpass any of Villa's midfielders and, even though he is performing at a lower level, there can be no question that he could be of benefit to his parent club at this time.
Unfortunately for them, he is set to stay with Forest for the rest of the campaign, but if he can continue to reach these sort of standards then Gardner will return to Villa Park optimistic about his chances of breaking into the first-team next campaign.