Sunderland’s Craig Gardner insists he doesn't hold a grudge against manager Martin O'Neill for selling him during the pair’s Aston Villa days.
After a summer switch to the Black Cats, rumours circulated that the midfielder was suffering from homesickness, but he has thrived since the arrival of O’Neill.
Gardner spent after three-and-a-half years at Villa under the Irishman’s guidance before a £3 million move to city rivals Birmingham City and the 25-year old has quelled any rumours of a grudge between the pair, insisting that it was him who engineered his move away from Villa Park in January 2010 and not the manager.
“To be honest, I’ve read a bit about the gaffer selling me previously but it doesn’t really paint the full picture". Gardner told Sunderland Echo.
“The truth is I wanted to leave, I was desperate to go because I wasn’t getting games and that’s why I was allowed to move – I was pestering him every day about going because I wanted to play football.
“The gaffer didn’t want me to leave but I needed to go because I knew that reserve team football was no longer any good for me if I was going to develop as I wanted to.”
The midfielder also hailed his side’s new lease of life under the guidance of O'Neill, describing him as a “genis”.
“Some people say he’s a genius, some people say he’s lucky; but he can’t be lucky because he does it every time.
“He’s just a top bloke and a top, top manager.”
"The way he turned Aston Villa around was unbelievable and the way he has turned Sunderland around is unbelievable.”