Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood has told the Birmingham Mail of his eagerness to assess Gary Gardner in training ahead of the 22-year-old midfielder returning from his Nottingham Forest loan spell this week.
Gardner has long-been considered one of Villa’s most promising talents since coming up through the ranks to earn his first-team debut in December 2011, but two serious knee injuries have served to derail his progress with his hometown club in recent seasons.
However, thanks to a four-month stint at Brighton and his recent spell with Forest, the former England Under-21 international is now back fit and showing the potential which once even saw him compared to Steven Gerrard.
Having impressed in 18 starts for Dougie Freedman’s side, scoring four times in the process, Sherwood now plans to give the Birmingham-native the chance to showcase his Premier League credentials on the training ground during the final weeks of the season.
Along with fellow loanee Joe Bennett, who has spent the season at Brighton, Gardner cannot feature for the club during the top-flight run-in but the Villa boss believes both could push themselves into first-team contention next term.
Reserving particular praise for Gardner, who he has been to watch in action in recent weeks, Sherwood said: “When they return, it will give me an opportunity to have a look at them. They haven’t got to wait until pre-season for me to give them a decision.
“I’ve seen Gary Gardner. I remember seeing him years ago, when he scored twice in an under-18s game I watched against Arsenal.
“He’s a box-to-box player and I’ve watched him a couple times this season playing as more of a holding midfield player.
“He’s just like his brother - he likes to shoot anywhere on the field, can play with both feet, and is a good ball striker.
“I need to assess him at close hands I will know within ten days to two weeks whether he’s for me or not. I’m hoping he is and I’m hoping Bennett is as well.”