Craig Gardner set to return to Sunderland midfield

Sunderland midfielder Craig GardnerMartin O’Neill still sees Craig Gardner as a central midfielder, not a full-back despite the former Birmingham City player’s impressive performances in defence.

Gardner was the Black Cats most accomplished performer in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool building on efficient performances away at Arsenal and Swansea.

The 25 year old has been shifted to right back due to injury to Phil Bardsley but has played so convincingly it could be the role that best suits him on Wearside.

But O’Neill still believes the middle of the park is where Gardner is best suited, “Craig’s acquitted himself pretty well and he doesn’t mind where he plays,” said the Ulsterman to The Northern Echo.

“Overall he can play in both positions. He’s improved as a full-back, he tried to read it well, he did very well with that, but he’s essentially a midfield player.

“We’re trying to stall him until Bardsley gets back. Its true goals are a principal part of his game. That’s the part you forfeit with playing him so far back.”