Sheffield Wednesday star Gardner is fighting fit

Anthony Gardner

Anthony Gardner

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Ten years ago, they were heralded as two of the brightest young players on the English football scene.

They won one international cap for England apiece, and commanded almost £10m in combined transfer fees between them.

But in the years since, both Anthony Gardner and Chris Kirkland have had more than their fair share of injury problems, and have left behind the bright lights of the Premier League for a Championship relegation scrap with Sheffield Wednesday.

They have, fairly or not, been labelled as ‘injury prone’ throughout their careers - a tag that Gardner admits is easy to pick up, but difficult to shake off.

“You’re always going to pick up injuries in football, that’s part and parcel of the job we do,” Gardner told the Sheffield Telegraph earlier this week.

“Especially when you’re playing a lot of games in a really tough league.

“Unfortunately, if you get one or two serious ones, you tend to pick up a name for yourself. But it’s inevitable to get knocks and strains.

“Touch wood, I’m not doing too badly this season - I just want to stay fit and keep performing for Wednesday.”

Indeed, Gardner has started 24 games this season, and Kirkland 32 - not bad for a duo often used as examples of bad luck and unfulfilled promise.

“I’m happy with my level of performances so far,” Gardner, who made his solitary England appearance in March 2004 against Sweden, said.

“It’s simple really; the more games you play, the better you’ll perform. It’s all about that consistency.”

That consistency has seen Wednesday, previously one of the most generous defences in the Championship, concede just seven goals in their last ten games and go unbeaten in four.

“That’s come as a result of a better understanding between the defenders,” Gardner explained.

“It takes a bit of time to get used to your defensive partners after joining a new club.

“Now we’re becoming more confident with each other, we’ve tightened things up and we’re looking to keep that going.”

Kirkland rose to prominence after a £6m move to Liverpool, before suffering a catalogue of injuries - including broken bones, concussion and a knee problem.

“It’s good to have a goalkeeper of Chris’s calibre behind you,” Gardner, “It gives you such a confidence boost knowing you have a capable ‘keeper between the posts.

“He’s a top player and a good voice, too - he’s got a lot of experience throughout his career, and is a good guy to have in the dressing room, too.

“Me and Chris are senior players in the dressing room now, so we have an important role to play on and off the field.”

The Owls, without a game this weekend, travel to Birmingham City next Tuesday night.

“It’s good to have a break every now and then, to recharge the batteries,” Gardner said.

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