O'Neill wants constant Gardner
By Tom Adams
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Martin O'Neill has confirmed that he plans to discuss a new deal with Craig Gardner.
Martin O'Neill has confirmed that he plans to discuss a new deal with Aston Villa's young midfielder Craig Gardner.
The 20-year-old demonstrated his value to the team by scoring in Saturday's 3-1 win over Middlesbrough and has impressed despite playing just nine games in the Premiership this season.
Since arriving at Villa Park in the summer, O'Neill has been pro-active in tying his promising talents to new deals, with players such as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Isaiah Osbourne putting pen to paper.
Now the Ulsterman wants to add Gardner to that list, even though his current deal runs for another two seasons.
"Like Gabby (Agbonlahor), Craig had something in his contract whereby if he played 'X' number of games it would trigger something off," said O'Neill.
"But, regardless of whether he had that clause in place or not, I would certainly be looking to give him a new contract. I will be looking to do something with Craig and I like him a lot.
"I like his attitude. He was unlucky earlier this season in that he initially got into the side and then got injured.
"Next season, with a proper pre-season under his belt, I am expecting really good things of him. It will be a big season for him."
The win against Boro saw Villa move into the top half of the Premiership, and O'Neill has rued a succession of draws that have scuppered his chances of taking the club into Europe.
"It is a fact that we have lost less times than Bolton who have been in the top five or six all season. That really tells its own story for me," added O'Neill.
"We have drawn a lot of games - 15 - and if we had managed to turn just two or three of those draws into wins then we would now be looking at pushing for a European spot."
The return of John Carew could help Villa find another victory as the big Norwegian striker is expected to return from a calf injury in Sunday's game against Portsmouth.
"He should be alright for next week. That would give him the correct amount of time to recover from that sort of injury and he is doing fine on that front."