Gardner back at Birmingham City on initial loan

Craig Gardner has returned to Birmingham City in a loan deal for the rest of the season, ahead of a permanent move in the summer.

The Solihull-born midfield player spent 18 months at the St Andrews club from January 2010, and helped them win the League Cup with that famous win over Arsenal in 2011. He left the Blues for Sunderland when they were relegated from the Premier League, and has more recently been plying his trade in the top-flight with West Bromwich Albion.

However, Gardner, who began his career at Aston Villa, has fallen out of favour under Tony Pulis of late. The 30-year-old signed a new two-year contract at the Hawthorns in October but has made just 10 appearances this season, and he will now spend the rest of the season with Birmingham who will pay £1.5million to take him permanently in the summer.

“Craig has done a great job for me and the club, and we were certainly not in any hurry to see him leave,” said Albion manager Pulis, who made no secret of his preference to keep the player. “But he is desperate to play first team football, which I could not guarantee, and this is a terrific opportunity for him at Birmingham City. He goes with our very best wishes.”

The Blues are seven points adrift of a playoff place in the Championship, having taking just one point from the four games since Gianfranco Zola replaced Gary Rowett as manager. They will hope to get back to winning ways this weekend when Nottingham Forest visit St Andrews on Saturday afternoon, a match in which Gardner is expected to make a second debut.

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