As a boyhood Villa fan, Sunday’s derby match against Birmingham City holds particular significance for Gary Gardner.
After suffering a host of serious injuries, spending time away on loan and a mixed start to the 2016/17 season, academy graduate Gardner has started and impressed in Villa’s last two games.
The 24-year-old’s all-action displays in central ground proved a major thorn in both Reading and Fulham’s sides.
And he’s excited at the prospect of locking horns with Villa’s fiercest rivals at St Andrew’s for the very first time.
He said: “I can’t wait.
“It’s the biggest game for the boys but we’ve just got to make sure we get stuck in and get the three points.
“Obviously, the fans will be there getting us through it.“It’s a big thing for me as a Villa fan. My family are split, Craig is a Blues fan. And now I want to win and get it done with.
It’s a massive game. It’s one of the biggest games of the season in terms of rivalry.
“It’s a massive game. It’s one of the biggest games of the season in terms of rivalry.
“But our plan now is to work hard every day – and in the game.
“If we do that hopefully we’ll get the result.”
Gardner was also keen to play down the hype surrounding Steve Bruce’s return to St Andrew’s and says the boss, along with his troops, will be solely focussed on continuing their strong form – aided in no small part by the manager’s immediate input.
He added: “The gaffer just wants to go there and get the result.
“You can’t go back there getting too carried away.
“He’ll have all the lads working hard and right behind him.
“We all want to get the result for him and for ourselves.
“The new gaffer has got us working. That’s a massive thing for the lads.
“He can pass on his experience in talking to the dressing room and everyone knows what they’re doing.
“Everyone will put a good shift in to get those results.
“He’s come in and got everyone going again. “We haven’t lost many but we’ve drawn way too many - that said, you can’t look back in this league.
“He’s come in and hit the ground running and so have the people he’s brought with him.
“The lads are working hard in training and we have to stick to that and put it out on the pitch.”