Martin O’Neill praises versatile midfielder

Sunderland Manager Martin O’Neill has hailed the influence of the selfless Craig Gardner with the player currently playing as an emergency full back.

The North East outfit have been struck with several defensive injuries this season and the 25 year old has proven he is more than able, stepping up to the challenge of covering for those out.

The former Aston Villa boss has praised the importance of the player to the team and hopes to see more of the same.

It had been speculated that the midfielder had been homesick in January last season but the midfielder is now an established member of the team.

The Black Cats bought the midfielder in the summer of 2011 in a deal reported to be in the region of £7.5million from Birmingham City and the club are now beginning to see a return on that investment.

He did fill on occasions at full back under O’ Neill at Aston Villa but Gardener’s maturity has developed significantly since then.

O’ Neill went on to tell the Sunderland official website “Craig has filled in there and he has done brilliantly for us, really brilliantly, and I couldn’t really ask for any more.”

The Northern Irish manager also has seen a change in the player’s awareness of the player as he continued to state “He always felt that wingers were coming at him left, right and centre. Now he is capable of coping with it.”

Gardner will be looking to deal with the wing threat of Newcastle United in the form of Hatem Ben Arfa and Gutierrez this weekend, and he will be looking continue his steady form in the vital fixture.