MARTIN O’Neill is considering handing Craig Gardner his first start in almost three months in a bid to boost Sunderland’s goal threat.
Gardner has been restricted to a bit-part role since his summer move from Birmingham City, starting just five times in the Premier League and grabbing a solitary goal.
But O’Neill worked with the 25-year-old during his formative years at Aston Villa and believes he has matured into a goalscoring midfielder capable of timing his runs into the penalty area.
Gardner was under consideration to start against Blackburn in O’Neill’s first game in charge before succumbing to a hamstring injury, but could be included at QPR tonight as Sunderland look to add to their meagre six-goal tally on the road.
O’Neill said: “I’ve known Craig now for quite some time.
“He has a great shot, can hit the ball with both feet, but what you don’t want is him getting ahead of the game and arriving too early.
“But I think with his experience now of playing at Villa and Birmingham and being able to score those goals, which we all know he is capable of doing, that will help.”
Read more of Martin O’Neill’s thoughts in today’s Sportmail.-