Gardner targets England action
Craig Gardner has signalled his intention to break into the senior England squad during his first season at Sunderland. The 24-year-old midfielder arrived at the Stadium of Light from Birmingham last month after much soul-searching in the wake of his home-town club's relegation from the Premier League. However, Gardner's desperation to stay in the top flight and to win recognition on the international front prompted him to choose the Black Cats from a series of suitors. Darren Bent and Jordan Henderson have both played for England while wearing the red and white stripes in recent seasons, and Steve Bruce's summer signing is determined to follow in their footsteps after being persuaded that his new club is as ambitious as he is. He said: "When you join a club, you want to know where they want to go and I knew where they wanted to go. "They told me which players they were going to bring in, and the players they have brought in, that's singing from the same hymn sheet as me because I want to play for England this year. "I want to really, really improve on my career and to do that, you have got to have top quality players around with experience like they have. It's a top club. "If you are doing well as a club, that means you have got more chance of getting into the England team. "But forget England for the minute - I want to really, really do well at Sunderland." Gardner was in demand this summer after supplementing his contribution to Birmingham's Carling Cup triumph and ultimately vain bid to retain their Premier League status with 10 goals in all competitions. Bruce is conscious of the burden which has been placed on the likes of Bent and Asamoah Gyan to find the back of the net during his reign to date, and has repeatedly pleaded with his midfielders to help out on that front. His swoop for Gardner could prove a masterstroke in that respect with the man himself intent on reaching double figures once again. He said: "I said at the start of last season that if I didn't score 10 goals, I would consider it a failure, and I am going to say the same this season. "I missed a lot of games last year and I could have got more. I want to be in the same boat this year, I want 10 goals to my name, and I would consider that as a big season for me again." Gardner's arrival on Wearside along with eight other newcomers to date is an illustration of Bruce's intention to build upon last season's creditable 10th-place finish. However, it was the capture of former Manchester United duo Wes Brown and John O'Shea and the winning mentality they bring to the club which helped to convince the midfielder that the move was the right one for him. He said: "There will be big expectations now, but we have got big players - we have just signed Wes and John and Connor Wickham and players like that. "They are top-class players. Wes and John are used to winning everything at Manchester United and hopefully, they can bring that into Sunderland because we want to be going into games now expecting to win, not expecting to draw or lose. "We want to win games because we want to get up the table as quickly as we can."
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