Aston Villa's Gary Gardner enjoys England opportunity

Gary Gardner
Gardner's only Villa first team action came during the 2011 Asia Cup

Aston Villa midfielder Gary Gardner says he is delighted to have played a major role in Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 side over the past week.

Gardner, 19, scored twice after coming off the bench in the 5-0 win over Iceland at Colchester.

"I was buzzing to get on for the last half hour and to score two goals means a lot to me," Gardner told BBC WM.

"We went away to Belgium and played them off the park, but they won 2-1 - at home we'll batter them."

The Birmingham-born teenager is looking to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Craig, who now plays for Sunderland.

He was 19 when he made his Villa first-team debut - an opportunity that has yet to be offered Gary.

He has been catching the eye of manager Alex McLeish with his performances in the NextGen series where Villa's under-19s are rubbing shoulders with the best in Europe.

Next Tuesday they take on Ajax at Villa Park for a place in the knockout stages, and Gardner thinks it is a great experience.

"I think if we win that we'll win the group, and to play in a European quarter-final for young lads - who wouldn't want to play in that?," he noted. "If we can beat Ajax we can hopefully go far.

"That bit of playing in Europe and going away from home - I think it's a massive experience, especially for the young lads here. I think they're coping with it very well."