Gardner vows to come back stronger
Aston Villa midfielder Gary Gardner has vowed to come back stronger from the second major injury in his fledgling career.
Gardner, 20, ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee in an Aston Villa Under-21 game against Stoke in August and is out of action until at least the Spring.
But despite it being the second major injury of his career already, the England U-21 international is confident of making a full recovery and returning to stake a major claim for a place in Paul Lambert's starting line-up.
"It's depressing but you have to stay mentally strong," he said. "You can't go through your whole career without an injury or an operation these days. It's a hazard of the game and these injuries are happening more and more nowadays.
"I've been unfortunate to have had two serious injuries by the age of 20 but I knew I had done it straightaway, so I just walked off. I had the scan the next day and it showed up what I had done.
"I was devastated but didn't feel sorry for myself. I just got my head down, had the operation and now I'm just going to crack on."
The younger brother of Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner - himself a former Villa player - is grateful for family support that has pulled him through his darker days.
And although it is Gardner's second cruciate injury, he is more than grateful that it was not on the same leg as the first time around.
"If I had done the same leg again, I would have been a bit worried because I would have thought it was not holding up properly," he said. "But my left leg is feeling strong. My first injury has made me feel I will come back stronger, 100%.
"That made me respect and appreciate the game more. I did all my leg work properly and, when I came back, my knee felt as strong as ever.
"That is what has given me the confidence to know I will be back, fitter and stronger this time, too."