Craig Gardner: Talentspotter

Sunderland midfielder and former England under-21 star Craig Gardner speaks to FourFourTwo in August 2007, when he was at Aston Villa.

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Gards – it's stuck since I was a youngster.

Club supported as a boy
I come from a family of Villa fans, so there was only ever one club for me. When I signed my first contract at Villa Park, it was a fantastic moment.

I've always been a box-to-box midfielder. I like to think that I can put my foot in, break up play, and also have a good range of passes.

I've only scored a couple of goals so far this season, so that's something I can work on over the summer.

I play a bit like...
I've been likened to Bryan Robson, so I'm pretty happy with that. He was great whether he was playing for club or country – so to emulate any of his achievements would be amazing.

Scoring my first goal in the Premiership was a pretty special feeling. We were 1-0 down against Middlesbrough, and I equalised just before half-time. We were struggling a bit at the time and went on to win the game 3-1, so it was an important goal.

Definitely getting injured against Chelsea just after Christmas. Martin O'Neill had given me a decent run in the team and I was really starting to find my feet, so to miss out on matches through injury was a real low point for me.

Toughest opponent
There are a few in the Premiership. Joey Barton is a tough little character who never gives you a moment on the ball – and Steve Gerrard obviously has a great physical presence. I'm not easily intimidated, though, so I like to think I can give as good as I get.

Best player played with
I would have to say Gareth Barry – his use of the ball is fantastic. At a time when there aren't too many decent left-footed players in this country, I think it's a mystery that he's not in the England squad.

Biggest influence
My parents have been great throughout my career, ferrying me to matches and always supporting me. Martin O'Neill has also been superb: he gives you so much confidence that you just want to go out and play for him.

Best advice given
Don't get carried away because you never know what's around the next corner.

Biggest practical joker
When he was at Villa Park, Eric Djemba-Djemba was hysterical. He never took anything too seriously and would always be cracking jokes.

Latest car
A Range Rover Sport.

I think it was Deja Vu with Denzel Washington and Val Kilmer. It was quality.

It would have to be Jessica Simpson.

I really enjoy a bit of Prison Break.

If you hadn't been a footballer...
I have absolutely no idea. Very hard to say. Hopefully it's not something I'll have to worry about now.

Tell us something we don't know
Oh, crikey... erm... I once met Alan Shearer and Rob Lee when I was on holiday when I was 12 or 13. I nabbed them and got my picture taken with them.

With my first pay packet I bought...
I don't think it was anything too memorable – clothes, I think.

If I could play alongside any player...
I would love to play with Paul Scholes. His range of passing is just awesome. I played against him when United beat us 3-0 at our place and he never gave the ball away. We spoke quite a bit during the game; as a young player, it was great to watch the way he played.

Most embarrassing moment
I might have scored in the last game of the season, but the thing I remember most about the match is missing a sitter from about four yards out.

In five years' time...
I'll be playing in the Champions League with Villa and challenging for the Premiership.

From the August 2007 issue of FourFourTwo.