Craig Gardner has revealed the frustration he felt as a bit-part player at Aston Villa - but the Birmingham midfielder believes it is crucial that Martin O'Neill remains at the helm.
Gardner made the switch from Villa Park to St Andrew's during the January transfer window and is relishing being a first-team regular ahead of Sunday's home Barclays Premier League meeting with Liverpool.
But he has nothing but praise for Villa boss O'Neill, who has been the subject of speculation that he will quit after four years in charge in the summer, and said: "I haven't got a bad word to say about Martin O'Neill. He was always great to me from when I first arrived to when I left."
He added: "I think he's a great manager and look what he's done down there. He's got Villa to the Carling Cup final and an FA Cup semi-final - and they're competing for fourth place and the Champions League.
"What more do they want? He deserves credit, not people saying bad things about him. They're playing some of the best football they've ever played.
"I think it's a big decision to try to make him stay because I think he's a great manager and what he's done down there has been different class."
On his own time at Villa Park, Gardner continued: "It was really frustrating at Villa to go into training every day, to give 110 per cent and to do it knowing that you're not going to get any reward out of it.
"To have come to Birmingham now has been great because I love my training, I love playing and I'm on a high again. I've started the last four or five games.
"Hopefully I can stay in the side to the end of the season and start off next season as well."
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