Date: 16th January 2017 at 11:35am
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When Craig Gardner stripped off his tracksuit and waited patiently on the side of the pitch, the atmosphere in an otherwise subdued St. Andrews completely changed. The moment the fourth officials board, displaying number 12, was held aloft, the Tilton Road came alive.

That is the effect one signing can have on a club. Bringing Gardner back to B9 wasn’t a masterstroke by Gianfranco Zola, it was a footballing decision that made total sense.

For too long, Blues have lacked this sort of midfielder – a player who can pass, tackle and create chances. And with Gardner’s experience, you’d expect others to prosper alongside him.

His performance against Nottingham Forest was one of encouragement. For a player who has played very little football this season, Gardner seemed composed and energetic. His vision and distribution of the ball will be a massive bonus for Zola’s team who knock the ball around with ease but lack a creative edge.

Blues cannot rest on their laurels as more quality is needed. Gardner admitted that he hasn’t come back to Blues, and turned down Premier League interest, to be a mid-table Championship player. Now it’s time to put his words into action.

 
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