Gardner disappointed to miss derby
Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner has expressed his frustration with the decision that means he will miss Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby through suspension.
The 26-year-old was booked for a tackle on Demba Ba, which was described by Rafa Benitez after Sunderland's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday as "heavy".
Collecting his tenth booking of the season and a subsequent two-match ban, the former Birmingham City midfielder believes he was unfairly carded and that the overreaction of Ba influenced referee Neil Swarbrick.
"It's not the start that I wanted, but it's not a yellow card," Gardner told the Journal. "It was a fair tackle. He's just rolled around and forced the booking. I'll be involved on the training pitch, I'll be in the tunnel before the game, geeing every one of our lads up. I can assure the fans I'll get the team up for it, I'll be right behind every player on Sunday. It's football, but there we are."
Despite the loss, Gardner believes the Black Cats produced an impressive display during Paolo Di Canio's first game in charge.
"I thought we were brilliant against Chelsea," he said. "We worked on a lot of things on the training ground this week, a lot of shape, and I thought the team looked organised. He [Di Canio] knows that I'm going to miss the next two games and knows I get frustrated when I don't play, it was harsh to get a yellow card and I let the referee know that. The gaffer let me know I had a good game and we've got to keep going."
Disappointed to lose Gardner ahead of his first Tyne-Wear derby, Di Canio concedes the club do not have time to feel sorry for themselves.
Currently above the relegation zone on goal difference, Sunday's trip to St James' Park represents another stern test for the Italian as he looks to steer Sunderland to safety.
"It's obvious that Craig is a key player," Di Canio told the Sunderland Echo. "He's one of the fighters on the field. He's one of the leaders of the team, with the way he plays. He leads by example. But we don't have time to cry. We must keep the positive energy around us. We lost Danny Graham for the game on Sunday too. The most important thing is to remain positive because we have enough players to get through this spell and get results.
"We have to extend the attention until the end of the game and we will obviously work on that. I am more than happy with the way it started in the first half. We did very well during that first half, Chelsea didn't cause us many problems and we scored the goal. But we obviously conceded a goal too early in the second half. And then eight minutes later, we conceded another. That shouldn't be possible."