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Gardner sets ten-goal target after Black Cats move
Published : 16 Jul 2011 10:00:00
LAST season, the entire Sunderland midfield shared ten Premier League goals between them. Next term, new arrival Craig Gardner is determined to equal that tally on his own. The Black Cats have experienced some remarkable highs and lows in recent years, but the absence of a goalscoring midfielder has been a constant that has remained unchanged no matter what the starting line up, league position or division the club has been playing in at the time. Don Hutchison is probably the last genuine attacking midfielder of note, but even he managed just eight Premier League goals in the 2000-01 season. Since then, a host of players have failed to find the back of the net regularly, and last season, Kieran Richardson finished the campaign as the club's highest-scoring midfielder. Tellingly, though, his four goals came in the space of two weeks. Steve Bruce regularly bemoaned his side's reliance on its centre-forwards, and the £4.5m purchase of Gardner is clearly an attempt to address the issue. The 24-year-old bagged ten goals in all competitions last term - one of which came against Sunderland in April - and if the evidence of Wednesday's friendly at York City is anything to go by, his shoot-on-sight approach has accompanied him to Wearside. I scored ten goals from midfield last season and I want to bring that to this team, said Gardner, who was part of the Sunderland squad that flew to Hannover yesterday ahead of tomorrow's friendly with Armenia Bielefeld. I scored a good goal against them last season and hopefully I can bring that to the team now I'm here. I'll give it a good go. The target is to get into double figures again. I know it's a lot, but I set my sights high. Without sounding big-headed, I've got the knack of scoring goals. I shoot on sight, I pull the trigger. If I'm 20 yards out, I see the goal and pull the trigger. I did it last season and I missed a few games because of injury and suspension, so I don't see why I can't do it again. I could have got more last season and I'd like to get more this season. While Gardner moved from Birmingham last month, he began his career as a trainee with the club's second city rivals, Aston Villa. The Solihull-born midfielder made 80 appearances for Villa, and contributed to three sixth-placed finishes in a row under the club's former manager Martin O'Neill. At that time, Villa were being hailed as potential challengers to the established Big Four' thanks to a squad that was largely comprised of youthful homegrown talent, and Gardner sees obvious parallels with the group of players that Bruce is assembling at the Stadium of Light. Can Sunderland do what Villa did under Martin O'Neill Yes, definitely, he said. We've got a good manager. I was there under Martin O'Neill when the team gelled, and it's the same here. There is a core of British-based players. Everybody gels, and you know what you are going to get because we're going to graft for each other. We've got to knit together, but we know what we want to achieve. I've been told what we want to achieve and that is what we all want. We want to finish as high as we can and we want to qualify for Europe. As fans looking at the nine new signings, they might have to be patient, but hopefully we will achieve that. As one of nine newcomers, Gardner is part of a major transformation that will begin to take shape during this month's tour of Germany. Tomorrow's game with Armenia Bielefeld precedes matches with Hannover and Borussia Monchengladbach, and the eight-day tour should enable the new arrivals to begin to blend with the rest of the squad. Getting all the players in early helps, said Gardner. It's all right bringing so many in, but it might have been a problem if they were coming in a few days before the season starts. It normally takes three or four games to gel, but we can do that in pre-season hopefully. If you leave it until late, you might be down near the bottom of the league after three or four games. We've brought them early so we've got a chance to get to know each other over the next three or four weeks. * Sunderland midfielder Liam Noble has rejoined Carlisle United on an initial six-month loan. The 20-year-old heads back to Brunton Park following a successful loan spell with the Cumbrians last season that included a Johnstone's Paint Trophy winners' medal at Wembley.