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Craig Gardner back at Blues - the first interview

The fans have had a tough six years, but now times are changing.

Craig Gardner
The midfielder, who has joined on loan from West Bromwich Albion until the season's end when the transfer becomes permanent, says Blues should and will aim high under Gianfranco Zola.

And he admits he is 'more excited' about this, his second coming at St. Andrew's.

After completing his move, Gardner sat down with the Club's Head of Media and Communications Colin Tattum to discuss his intentions, and also address past issues.

Colin Tattum: Welcome home! What does it feel like?
Craig Gardner: It's difficult to describe. Obviously leaving six years ago, and saying 'I want to come back one day, I want to come back one day' and then you come back to the Midlands, but it's at West Brom and I was wishing it was Birmingham . . . But now I'm here and it's brilliant for me and my family and hopefully for the Club having someone here that really wants to be here and wants to try and take the Club forward. With all the experience I've picked up throughout my career hopefully now I can bring it back and try and help the Club get into the Premier League.

CT: You've swapped a club that's doing well in the Premier League in eighth, for a team in the Championship that has just changed manager in an attempt to move to the next level. That is quite a bold step to make? 
CG: I went to see the gaffer at West Brom Tony Pulis and said there's no way I wanted to leave unless Birmingham City came in for me. There were Premier League clubs interested in taking me on loan until the end of the season but I wasn't interested. This was the only move I wanted. I could have stayed at West Brom for the next 18 months, but I wanted this move and it's happened. Personally, I think this move now is better for me, and I am more excited about this move now than when I joined the first time because I feel I owe the Club something. I want to get them into the Premier League and I want to bring a buzz back to the place and get the fans back down here in their numbers. I want everybody to know that Birmingham City is a club that should be in the Premier League or should be fighting at the top of the Championship trying to get into the Premier League. We're not a mid-table club, we're a club that has got passion. The fans have got passion and desire and want us to win and we need to bring that winning mentality back to St. Andrew’s and Birmingham City and get everybody singing off the same page to make that happen.

CT: You mention owing the Club something. Let's go back six years when you left to join Sunderland after Premier League relegation. There was a lot of things that were misconstrued in the aftermath?
CG: After relegation I spoke to the Club and said I'd like to stay, I wanted to help us back up and the Club said they would build the team around me and make me captain. That's what I was led to believe. Literally one or two days later I was told a totally different story that I've got to be sold. So, whatever happened in those one or two days I don't know. I had to be sold - that was made clear - because the Club had to raise a certain amount of money in a certain amount of weeks, otherwise it would be big trouble (financially) for them.
    
CT: Of all the players who ended up leaving, the first big offer (£6 million) came in for you.
CG: Exactly. So, what do I do? Do I sit there and the Club might be in real trouble or do I move and help the Club out that have helped me out and play Premier League football because I was only 23 or 24 at the time? I know I did an interview at the time on radio and maybe some words came out wrong with me saying I've got to look after my family. But, I couldn't talk at the time about what had happened in that meeting. Yes, you do have to look after your family and that is part and parcel of it, but I could have just as easily looked after my family if I'd stayed here. It was the circumstances that meant I had to go or the Club would be in trouble. I don't know if the old owners were bluffing, but I was told we had to get a certain figure in a certain amount of weeks, or the Club would be in turmoil.  Even though they sold me, Scott Dann, Ben Foster and Cameron Jerome and others, the Club still nearly went (under). But that's the past. We don't want to live in the past. We want to look to the future. I'm back now and this is where I want to be. Hopefully this is where the fans want me to be. We need to get St. Andrew's roaring again like it was before. We need to get into the Play-Offs. We need to go again and try and get promoted this year. We need to get into the way that the gaffer wants us to play, the fans need to buy into it and we all need to be together. I have got to say, as well, that the current board have been brilliant. They did everything they could to make this happen and the ambition is there to get us back to where we should be.

CT: What are we going to see from Craig Gardner now?
CG: You are going to see what you've seen before. You are going to see a lot of passion, someone that can relate to people on the terraces. Every time they're cheering I'm cheering on the pitch. I can do their talking on the pitch because I know how they think. I've been there in the Play-Offs watching when Chris Holland missed that penalty (in 1999).  I've had that disappointment as a kid and I know what they want. The fans have had a tough six years, but now times are changing.

CT: With the new manager coming in, what have you made of the team and what have you made of what Gianfranco Zola is trying to do - and what does he want 
you to bring?
CG: I haven't seen too much of the team, because I've been playing at the same time, obviously. But I've had a brief chat with the gaffer and what he wants is perfect. It will suit me. He wants the passion back and he wants the fighting spirit back. He wants leaders out on the pitch and in the changing room. He wants everybody to come together and he wants that buzz back. If the fans buy into that, which I certainly have, otherwise I wouldn't be here. Even though I wanted to come back I wouldn't have if it was the same way it was before, even though I dreamt about it. I’ve still got ambitions and have goals. I've come back here to help Birmingham City get back in the Premier League where we belong. The Club has done everything they can to get me back, but if it was only me what's the point? I've come back because the Club have told me that we're giving it a really good go, the gaffer wants to do this with the Club and he wants to change things around and get the fans onside and he wants to do this, this and this, which is perfect. The way the gaffer has handled himself throughout his footballing career, he has straightaway earned the respect of every single footballer.  He knows the game inside out and having been a world class player with the players he's played with, hopefully I can get better as a player. He's got so much experience and I'm looking forward to benefitting from some of that experience as well and bringing my own into the team to help us.

CT: What are your hopes for this season and what do you think is realistic for Blues to do?
CG: We want to fight for the Play-Offs. We're only seven points off them. I want us to finish above Villa, too. As a fan, I know that's what every single fan will want. I want to finish above Villa but I also want to get into the Play-Offs and give it a right good go of getting up. As I said, we need all the fans to buy into this and come together and move forward.

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