Aston Villa rejected a Birmingham City request to play on loan midfielder Gary Gardner in the upcoming derby encounter between the two.
Gardner has been on loan at St Andrew’s this season, impressing in the middle of the park as they climb above Villa and within touching distance of a top six finish.
It would be an unlikely outcome after a summer of serious struggle, but the team ethic has fired them to lofty heights they could barely have expected. Gardner, with 30 starts, has been integral to that rise and will be sorely missed this weekend.
On the face of it, the decision may seem harsh on the player who has been impressive and could have showcased his talents to his parent club, but secretly he must be relieved he’s been spared the ordeal.
Gardner is in a tough position already, having swapped one side of Birmingham for another. Returning to Villa Park at the end of the loan will be hard enough anyway, but if they’d given him permission to play, it would have almost ruled it out altogether.
How could the player pull on the blue, have an impact on the result and then go back to Villa claiming he was dedicated to the cause? Similarly, how could he have gone up against his parent club and not given his all?
If he had a bad game, it could lead to accusations of not trying against Villa. If he had a good game, his homecoming would be frosty to say the least.
There’s no hidden message here, Villa haven’t given an indication of whether he’s welcome back or not. The request has been refused because it weakens the opposition in a key game, pure and simple.
However, for Gary Gardner there must be a strong feeling he’s dodged a bullet and whatever his allegiances are, wherever his future does lie, he can keep himself to himself in the stands and not alienate either set of fans.
It’s the best outcome he could have hoped for.