Gary Gardner might have struggled to establish himself in the Aston Villa first-team in recent seasons but, with the Daily Mail claiming that Nottingham Forest are keen to turn his loan deal into a permanent one, there remains good reason for the claret and blues to turn down a mooted approach.
Gardner, 22, has made 18 total appearances for Villa since coming up through the ranks to earn his senior debut in December 2011, but his efforts to make the grade at his hometown club have been hampered over the past two campaigns due to damaging his cruciate ligament for the second time in his career.
However, after experiencing a solid loan spell at Brighton & Hove Albion over the first half of the season, the former England Under-21 international was sent out for another Championship stint at Forest, where he has since started to show the promise which had him labelled as one of Villa’s most exciting prospects.
Used in a deeper midfield role, his presence in front of the back-four has proven crucial in Dougie Freedman's revival which has seen Forest claim 16 points from their last six games, while he also netted a stunning strike in the weekend’s 3-0 win at Reading.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that the club are now keen on acquiring his services on a permanent basis after nine excellent outings but, in the case of Villa, there would be little reason to sell Gardner on at this point in time.
In 19th-place in the Premier League, Tim Sherwood’s side could be forced to sell several of their prized assets in the event of relegation, with star man Fabian Delph one name certain to be off, even after penning a new deal this winter.
Villa will need to undertake a massive rebuilding effort in those circumstances, and emerging talents who are battle-tested in the Championship such as Gardner would be the ideal figures to build the team around.
Even if the club do manage to avoid the drop, though, Sherwood is still well-known for putting his faith in homegrown talent, suggesting that the Solihull-native could be given a genuine chance to prove his Premier League worth once he returns to Villa Park in the summer.
Having been compared to Steven Gerrard in the past, Gardner still has the chance of a bright top-flight career and, considering his recent performances and Villa’s own squad depth issues, cashing on his signature now would seem like a foolish decision.
Furthermore, having continued to show his devotion to his hometown team during his loan stints, one would imagine that he himself is keen on making a name for himself in the West Midlands.
Big game for the villa boys tonight too!!!!! Good luck lads get a win!!!!— Gary Gardner (@22Gards) March 3, 2015