Gary Gardner reveals admiration for former Aston Villa captain Martin Laursen

The Villa midfielder has hailed the now-retired Dane as a "proper professional".

Aston Villa midfielder Gary Gardner has told the club’s official website of his admiration for former claret and blue captain Martin Laursen.

Signed from AC Milan in the summer of 2004, Laursen would go on to make 91 total appearances for Villa over the next five seasons, as well scoring 11 goals and winning the 2007-08 Supporters’ Player of the Year award after helping the club to a sixth-place Premier League finish as an ever-present in the top-flight.

However, the Danish centre-back was dogged with persistent knee injuries during his time in the Midlands which ended up cutting his career short in 2009 following his lone campaign as skipper.

Nevertheless, the passion and commitment with which he led the team from the back made him a firm fan favourite at Villa Park for life, while also helping endear him to his teammates.

Coming up through the ranks at the time, Gardner was one of those who benefited from Laursen’s presence around the training ground, as the midfielder revealed that the pair had a number of conversations even while he was still just a member of the Under-18s.

“Martin was solid as a rock - a real lionheart defender,” said Gardner. “I just always remember him winning almost every single header he went for.

“He was a strong, strong defender - and a good organiser at the back too.

“He was a good guy off the pitch too. I had some good conversations with him when I was coming through the ranks as a young lad. He was a proper professional.”

A self-confessed Villa fan – unlike his brother Craig, Gardner now has the chance to make himself a claret and blue favourite following a season spent honing his skills out on loan in the Championship.

Long-considered one of the club’s most promising talents, a couple of serious ligament injuries had derailed the former England Under-21 international’s career but, after successful stints at Brighton & Hove Albion and Nottingham Forest, he is back fit and set to be welcomed into Tim Sherwood’s first-team squad for next term.

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch