Sheffield Wednesday: Fitness rosy for Gardner under Owls

Sheffield Wednesday skipper Anthony Gardner was delighted to play nearly 40 matches last season. Picture: Steve Ellis.
Sheffield Wednesday skipper Anthony Gardner was delighted to play nearly 40 matches last season. Picture: Steve Ellis.

Nine matches.

That was the grand total of league games captain Anthony Gardner missed last season in Sheffield Wednesday’s successful battle to avoid the drop.

When the Owls signed the Stafford-born player in the summer of 2012 from Crystal Palace, there were some people who questioned whether the big centre-half could still handle the rigours of Championship football on a consistent basis.

But Gardner, who will turn 33 in September, went on to dispel the theory he was injury prone by clocking up 38 appearances in all competitions during the 2012/13 campaign.

In each of the last three seasons, Gardner had played more than 30 times for Hull City, who the Owls play on Saturday in a friendly as part of their week-long pre-season training camp in Portugal, Palace and Wednesday.

Gardner, generally, marshalled the Owls back four astutely and his experience and organisational skills came to the fore in the final months of a relegation battle. Now he has paid tribute to the club’s medical staff for helping him stay in the best condition.

“It is down to the management staff to manage players in the right way; that is their job, but I think they found a formula last year which helped me,” he told The Star. “It allowed me to do the business on the pitch.

“As you get older, you start to understand your body better and what you need to do to stay sharp.

“I was happy that I played nearly 40 matches. It was probably the most amount of games that I have played in one season (He made 41 appearances for Spurs in 2004). I got an injury in the first game and that set me back but I worked quite hard to get my fitness back and from November onwards I felt great and I felt like I was contributing to the cause.”

Gardner, in his 15th pre-season as a professional, added: “You don’t want to peak before the nitty-gritty starts. Pre-season gets tougher as you get older but you know what level you need to get to for the first game.”