Birmingham City defender George Friend has insisted that Gary Gardner has found it difficult to be sitting on the sidelines in recent weeks and believes having him back available is a major boost.
Gardner has been forced to miss Birmingham’s last four matches in the Championship with the midfielder having been sent off during the Blues’ 2-0 defeat at Hull City last month.
That came with him leaning his head into Josh Magennis in frustration as Lee Bowyer’s side trailed 1-0 before the break. In the end, his dismissal did not help his teammates and they went on to suffer a defeat.
The red card at Hull was the second one of the campaign for Gardner and that shows that he needs to work on his discipline to ensure that he does not cost his teammates by making them play on a man light in their games. That is something that Bowyer will likely be having to make sure he is aware of fully before he brings him back into the side.
Outside of his two suspensions this term, Gardner has been able to make 14 Championship appearances for the Blues and he has scored twice in that time. That has meant that he has been a sizeable loss in the last four matches and Birmingham have been light on options in the middle of the park with Ryan Woods also out of action.
Speaking to Birmingham Live, Friend insisted that Gardner will have been disappointed to have been watching on from the sidelines during the last four games and he also believes he is the most passionate member of the squad.
He said: Gary is my team-mate but I know him well off the pitch as well. Our families get on and this has hurt him a lot.
“He is all about Blues and he is so dedicated. I can’t say how dedicated he is and how frustrated and disappointed he has been not being able to play because he is a big player for us.
“He cares that extra bit that some players might not. No-one is more sorry than him as well. When you see him every day, he is so committed to the cause and all he thinks and cares about is doing well for this club.
“I wouldn’t say there is anything he needs to change. He is so passionate and it will be great for him to come back, and Ryan Woods as well.
“To have two midfield options is a huge boost for us.”
It does seem that Gardner’s passion for the Blues at times gets him into trouble in terms of the decisions he makes on the field when they are behind in games or suffering through periods where they are not at their best. That boiled over with the red card he picked up at Hull and it is something he has to work on curtailing because Bowyer needs him to be available.
You need to have players like Gardner in the squad to have success at a club like Birmingham, he understands the supporters and what they expect from players and so he is able to translate that to the rest of his teammates. That is something that Friend obviously feels is a vital quality for the Blues.
Having Gardner and Woods back available now for the rest of the festive period is going to be huge for the Blues. They need their midfield to be as strong as possible if they are to come through two very tough games against Blackburn Rovers and Fulham.