Should Aston Villa's Gary Gardner be Steve Bruce's go-to man in Birmingham City clash?

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce

Local-born midfielder Gary Gardner netted the equaliser in October's Second City derby between Aston Villa and Birmingham City.

Gary Gardner celebrates scoring the first goal for Aston Villa with Alan Hutton

While the globalisation of the modern game means derby clashes may no longer pit local lads against their neighbours from across the city, Gary Gardner’s celebration after netting the equaliser against Birmingham City earlier in the season shows passion is alive and well in the second city.

Born and bred in Solihull and emerging through Aston Villa’s academy, the 24-year-old midfielder produced one of his most effective performances of the season in the 1-1 draw at St Andrews in late October.

He also netted his only goal in 2016/17, heading home to spark wild scenes on the pitch and the away terraces.

Although Gardner is far from a regular starter under Villa boss Steve Bruce (he’s only completed 90 minutes twice in 2017), his all-action character and will to win makes him an excellent asset to the squad when Birmingham City come to town.

Therefore, perhaps Bruce should consider handing him a rather rare start as Harry Redknapp’s Blues reign begins at Villa Park this weekend - the visitors cannot afford a defeat as they scrap against relegation so Gardner would relish delivering a potentially fatal blow to their survival hopes.

Gary Gardner celebrates scoring the first goal for Aston Villa

Henri Lansbury and Conor Hourihane will be favourites to begin the game ahead of combative destroyer Mile Jedinak in Bruce’s favoured central trio but, as Gardner demonstrated six months ago, he can be relied upon in the cut and thrust of the derby.

“I can’t wait. It’s a big thing for me as a Villa fan,” Gardner told the club’s official website ahead of October’s clash.

“It’s the biggest game for the boys but we’ve just got to make sure we get stuck in and get the three points.”

Gary Gardner scores the first goal for Aston Villa

The fact that brother Craig, who also learned his trade in Villa’s academy, will be lining up on the opposite side will only add further spice to an intriguing encounter.

Not that Gardner needs any more motivation.

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