CRAIG Gardner believes he has found his ideal partner after David Vaughan made his full Premier League debut for Sunderland at the weekend.
Signed from Birmingham City this summer as the answer to the Black Cats’ goalscoring problems, Gardner is conscious of the need to deliver. Having the cultured Vaughan alongside him in the centre of midfield will make it easier, he believes.
With regular partnership Lee Cattermole and Jack Colback dropped, Gardner and Vaughan started a league match together for the first time.
Sunderland looked much the better for it, and ran out 4-0 winners over Stoke City and Gardber admitted: “It all seemed to click into place.
“I enjoy playing with David in the middle. He is good on the ball and keeps possession well.
“When I am playing with David there is a pretty good blend.
“We played together in the pre-season game at Darlington and I thought we did fairly well then. I find it really comfortable with him. We seemed to know where each other was going to be and as central midfielders that is half the battle.”
Left-footed Vaughan played wide more often than not in pre-season, not the best use of his talents, as he told the media. After that outburst the Wales international found opportunities hard to come by until Sunday.
“Stoke were always going to be a tough side to face but we hit them hard from the start,” said Gardner.
“The early goal helped, and the goals kept coming after that.
“We have hinted at what we were capable of in some of the early games, but it was nice to bring it all together and produce a pretty good performance.
“The lads were brilliant right throughout the side.
“Nicklas (Bendtner) is excellent at holding the ball up, and Stéphane (Sessègnon) makes great runs into the channels.
“The combination of those two things makes it much easier to make attacking runs into the area.
“It seems like we gelled (on Sunday) but the challenge now is to keep performing like that week in week out.”
Gardner reached double figures for goals from midfield for relegated Birmingham last season.
That was a major failing of Sunderland’s during the last campaign.
He added: “I have come here with a reputation for scoring goals and I am keen to keep that going.
“It is not just about scoring, I am very conscious my overall performance has to be high as well.
“There is no doubt goals are a big part of what I do and I am also aware the club maybe has not scored a lot of goals from midfield in the past.
“The club have put faith in me by paying a fair bit of money (£6m) to sign me from Birmingham and I don’t want to let them down.
“That means producing on the pitch and scoring goals.”
Sunday’s was the Wearsiders’ first win this season in their sixth game. Having signed ten players in the summer, it was no great surprise they took time finding their feet, although some fans were becoming impatient with manager Steve Bruce.
Gardne said: “It was always going to take a little bit of time.
“We have brought a lot of new players into the club this summer, and it is never easy to hit the ground running straight away.
“We are not used to playing as a team yet, but we are getting there. We have had enough time now and we need to start kicking on.
“The fans are passionate, and that is what you want. The gaffer has done an unbelievable job assembling the squad we have now.
“He has brought the right people in and he is working really hard on the training ground to convey his vision of what he wants us to do.
“We know how frustrated the fans can get, but hopefully they have now seen what we can do.
“If we can take anything out of the Stoke game into the Norwich game at Carrow Road on Monday hopefully we will have a chance.”