Midfielder Gary Gardner has revealed how two former Owls loanees played an integral role in persuading him to move to Hillsborough.
Gardner, signed on a one-month loan deal from Aston Villa last week, decided to link-up with the Championship outfit after speaking to Ross Barkley and Connor Wickham.
The 21-year-old is good friends with Barkley and Wickham, having played with the duo at England youth level.
Both Barkley and Wickham have benefited from loan spells with Sheffield Wednesday in the last two seasons. Now Barkley is a first-team regular at Everton while Wickham has been told he will get a chance to stake his claim at Sunderland.
Gardner told The Star: “Ross [Barkley] and Connor [Wickham] played a big part in me coming here. I picked up the phone straight away to them and asked what it’s like here. They loved every minute of it. They made my mind up for me.
“It is a wonderful club. The lads are great and so are the fans.
“I know it is a massive club with a massive fan base.”
Gardner, the younger brother of Sunderland midfielder Craig, made his Owls debut in midweek as they suffered a second successive home defeat following an unstoppable late strike by Derby County’s Patrick Bamford.
“We were disappointed with the result,” he said. “It was a tough one to take as there was nothing in it.
“I think it needed a bit of magic and Patrick [Bamford] came up with it and scored a brilliant goal. I thought we were unlucky. We have to bounce back.”
A graduate of Villa’s youth system, Gardner is determined to ressurect his career, having been dogged by injury troubles in recent years.
Gardner, out of contract in the summer, has battled back from two serious knee problems. He has not featured for Villa since the final match of last season and has struggled with a back injury this term.
“It has been frustrating,” he conceded. “It is a footballer’s worse nightmare being injured for a long time. I’ve been very unlucky but I’ve had the support of my family and my close friends behind me who have helped me get through it.
“I feel as if my injuries are behind me. One hundred per cent.
“I feel stronger, wiser and I just need to get those minutes under my belt to get my fitness up.
“I just want to play games and score goals. I haven’t played much football so this is what I need. That’s why I have come here.