ANTHONY Gardner is coming back to where it all began for him, after his Owls move.
His first game for Port Vale reserves was at Hillsborough.
He also made his league debut for Vale against Sheffield United in 1998.
Those were early milestones in a career that now sees a 31-year-old defender with years of top-level experience trying to return to the Premier League with the Owls.
Gardner told The Star that there was interest in him from other clubs. But his mind was swayed by an early meeting with Dave Jones in London.
“He spoke to me about the way the club wanted to go; he thought I would be a good addition to the club,” he said.
“When we spoke I knew straight away it was a club with a lot of ambition, with a possibility of doing well in the Championship.
“Dave Jones saw me as a quality player and a leader with experience, It was a good fit.
“I’ve come to
help the club get back into the top league - that’s my ambition. I’ve played there for a lot of my career; that’s where a club of this size should be, with the fan base. The manager is trying to assemble a squad capable of doing well in the Championship and getting promoted.
“The fans will be looking for us to give it a go.
“Southampton and Norwich went up from League One and went straight through the Championship. It’s possible.”
The centre-half who made 114 Premier League appearances for Spurs was already aware of the Owls’ tradition: “I knew their history as a big club in the top division.
“Des Walker was one of my favourite players. and Chris Waddle was here; Sheffield Wednesday are a club who were on the big stage.”
Gardner himself used to be a high-profile player. He was seen a potential successor to Sol Campbell by Spurs, who bought him for £1 million from Port Vale.
He made the England squad as cover for Gareth Southgate, and won a cap in 2004
when he took over from John Terry as a half-time sub for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s team against Sweden.
Injury problems during his White Hart Lane career did not stop Hull paying £2.5m for him in 2008, and he has proved his general fitness during his two years with Crystal Palace, who wanted him to stay:
“They made me an offer; I had to think about it, because I enjoyed my time with them. I respect the manager, Dougie Freeman, a lot. He’s a good guy. He helped me a lot,” he said.
“But I decided it wasn’t the right career move for me to remain. I felt I needed another challenge and I felt Wednesday was a big challenge and a good opportunity to progress my career.”