Gardner aiming to tame Tigers as Owls seek lift-off in derby

HULL City supporters will need no introduction to the defender sat in the heart of Sheffield Wednesday’s back four when the Yorkshire rivals meet today.

For Anthony Gardner was the Tigers’ £2.5m record signing when Hull splashed the cash to bring the former England centre-half to the KC Stadium from Tottenham in 2008.

Phil Brown’s side had just been promoted to the Premier League and the club invested heavily in some big-name signings.

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The 32-year-old, though, had a torrid time with injuries at the Tigers, playing just a handful of games in his first season due to a hip problem.

He returned to play the following season, but could do nothing to prevent Brown losing his job as Hull suffered relegation back to the Championship.

After a two-year-spell at Crystal Palace, Gardner returned to Yorkshire this summer and is hoping he can end his jinx of yet to play in a winning Championship team for the Owls today at Hillsborough.

“The first season I was at Hull I had big problems with my hip, which was reccurring, and I didn’t play that many games in their first year in the Premier League,” said Gardner. “It was sad, and unfortunate for me, but that’s football.

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“The second year I played a lot of games, which I was happy with. It’s a good club but I will be on the other side of the white line this weekend, hoping we can get three points and kick our season off.

“There’s still a few players there that I know but it’s been three years since I have been there and with football there’s always a change in personnel. Some of the backroom staff are still there and a few younger players have come through.

“Robert Koren is still there, too, a talented player so I know about him and he will be one to watch. It will be nice to see one or two faces.

“It was an enjoyable time but a tough one, too. We were in the Premier League, so you are showcasing your abilities against big clubs every week.

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“But ultimately, there were certain things going on, both on and off the field, that didn’t help the situation at the club. The most important thing, though, was that on the pitch we didn’t perform well enough throughout the season to stay in the Premier League.

“But I had a good time there, I enjoyed the football, made some good friends and it’s a good club, with good support.”

Both Wednesday and the Tigers have developed a nasty habit of late for conceding goals. Hull have shipped three in each of their last three matches, while Wednesday’s record is even worse, over the season conceding on average over two goals a game.

Their only points this season came with 3-2 wins over Birmingham City and Millwall, plus high-scoring draws against Derby (2-2) and Burnley (3-3). It promises to be an open game but Gardner would swap goalmouth entertainment for a drab 1-0 win today, with Wednesday sat just outside the relegation zone.

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“This is a results-based business and we would be happy to dig out a 1-0 win,” he said. “It may be quite boring, but it’s three points. Ultimately, everyone would like to see us play good football and win at the same time.

“But sometimes, when you are in the position we are in at the moment, three points is the most important thing.

“We have players like JJ, Michail Antonio and Rodri, players who get people’s bums off seats. It’s that kind of club, an arena for players to play in, but, at the same time, when you are not winning games fluently you have to dig in and you need experienced players to show.

“I think where we have found ourselves this season, as a team we want to play exciting open football. When you play that way you tend to have an openness about you which sometimes leads to conceding and scoring goals.

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“In most of our games this season there have probably been four goals in each, and that’s produced because of our style of play. At times, our defending has not been to the level we want and you need to keep clean sheets.

“Last year, I was playing in a team which was pretty boring to play in if I am honest, but we kept clean sheets. It’s having the balance, you want to win games and entertain, but be solid at the back as well and keep clean sheets.

“Dave Jones has tried to drum into the team that you can play free-flowing football but you need a base to start with. You build from there.

“We have been looking at our defensive shape, how we stop other teams playing, maybe we got caught in the moment early on when we were winning games but still conceding goals.

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“But this takes time, you can see from the the squad and team that a lot of new players have come in and it takes time to gel and the manager has not had the luxury of having a settled team through injuries or form.”

The Owls lost six successive games in September, before Tuesday’s draw at Burnley. Three times they went behind but battled back for a point and Gardner feels their spirit at Turf Moor, plus a narrow 1-0 loss at Wolves previously, has raised hope that Jones’s side may just be turning the corner. “We all care about how we perform and what direction the club is going in. If things aren’t going well we get down and upset about it.

“The fans here haven’t seen the best of me yet, not by a long way. There’s things I can do better, help the players around me. For me, I am at a new club and sometimes even for someone with the experience that I have, it can take a little bit of time to get to know the environment and the players.”

Wednesday’s Mark Beevers has joined Championship rivals Millwall on a month’s loan.