Gardner happy on Wearside

Midfielder excited to face Magpies on Sunday

Craig Gardner: Midfielder is enjoying his football for Sunderland after tough start on Wearside

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Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner admits he is only just starting to settle into life on Wearside after a turbulent start to his career at the club.

The 25-year-old made his Black Cats debut in August's 1-0 defeat by North East rivals Newcastle after being signed in the summer by former boss Steve Bruce as one of 10 new first-team arrivals at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland have lost only four league games since Martin O'Neill took over from Bruce in December and the Irishman spoke to Gardner about his situation amid reports of homesickness.

The midfielder responded well with a string of outstanding performances for the club and he has now made it clear that he is enjoying life with the Black Cats.

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Settled

Gardner told The Journal: "You need a settled team, you have players knowing what they are doing and at the start of the season, to be honest, players did not know what they were doing - I certainly didn't.

"I was not the same player I am now and I was last season. Maybe that was me getting settled, but as I say I am settled now and we are ready.

"I don't know where the talk is coming from because I have never come out and said anything.

"It was hard at the start, but I'm enjoying it now. Playing every week has made a difference and I do feel happy now."

Unlucky

And Gardner is adamant that O'Neill's side will be a completely different proposition to the one Newcastle faced at the start of the season.

"August's derby was the second game of the season and for some of the lads, it was only our second game properly together. We were unlucky not to win the game - it could have gone either way," he said.

"There is a third of the season left and we are sky-high in confidence. Newcastle will be sky-high in confidence too, so let's have it!"