By Paul Brown
Marc Albrighton believes Gary Gardner has what it takes to dominate Villa's midfield - just like Gareth Barry and James Milner did.
Barry and Milner both shone in the central ground in claret and blue for years.
Now Gardner has been tipped to follow in their footsteps, after a season of progress with the seniors.
Gardner progressed through the youth and reserve sides and then established himself as an integral part of the first team set-up.
Good friend Albrighton hailed that evolution and backed him to push on next term.
He said: "If you look at the players who have played in Villa's central midfield over the past few years, for Gaz to say he's part and parcel of that is brilliant for him.
"Not long ago Gareth Barry was playing in there, James Milner was in there too. Gary Gardner played there last season for a good spell. That should give him plenty of confidence.
"If he can build on his performances of last season it would be fantastic. There's no reason why he can't. He has the talent and the desire.
"Hopefully he can get more games under his belt next season and show what a talent he is.
"It's a dream come true for him to be putting on that claret and blue shirt in the first team. I know I felt the same when it first happened to me. I still do every time I put on the shirt.
"I really enjoy playing for the club. I know Gaz is the same. He's Villa through and through. He will be looking forward to the future next season."
Albrighton believes Gardner's professional attitude will serve him well in the coming years as he looks to eke out a classy career in claret and blue.
He added: "Gaz is one of the most down to earth guys I know.
"Every time I speak to him he wants to learn as a player and get better and better. He is doing that.
"He has been fantastic for the reserves and youth sides in the last couple of seasons.
"He suffered a horrific injury to his knee but he bounced back from that and I respect him for the way he has come back.
"He thoroughly deserves the chances he's had in the first team. Hopefully he can build on that next season."
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