Ross Gardner arrived with fellow Newcastle academy trainee James Beaumont with a bit of hype and high hopes. The pair highly regarded at Newcastle, and with Gardner having represented England at junior levels. The story was that they had fell afoul of Newcastle’s Academy boss Peter Beardsley, being accused of bullying the pair, which was a claim later dismissed.
|Gardner in action for Forest|
Gardner was a midfielder, born in South Shields, he was hoped to be a bit more of a box to box midfielder. Forest had had a good time with bringing through youth at that time, and with the club having missed out in the playoffs, would be hoped to come though in the wake of the likes of Gareth Williams.
However it was an incredibly turbulent time at Forest. Hart was the manager who signed them, and by the time Gardner left a short few years later we had rattled through a number of bosses, both permanent and care taker.
Gardner would make his debut as a sub under Paul Hart coming on as sub in a 6-0 demolition of MK Dons. Restricted to a few sub appearances, who got more game time under Joe Kinnear as the slide toward League One began. The team at this stage were losing the best players.
In the infamous relegation season, under Megson Gardner actually broke through and started a number of the last few games of the season in the run in.Maybe in preperation for the drop to give him match time, or because there was little else (Sonner and Gunnarsson for example) so he got game time.
As we dropped into League One under Megson, Gardner continued to feature sporadically, until the arrival of Calderwood who deemed him surplus to requirements and let the North East native go initially on loan and then permanently to Port Vale. His last games were as a late substitute against Brentford and Colchester. As we struggled on in League One before the McParland and Barlow renaissance and stormed up the table,it was also the signing of the likes of Sammy Clingan that pretty much ended his Forest career a well as getting injured just when he'd have got a run in the team.He never scored for Forest.
After a short stint at Vale, he ended up in the non league playing for both Eastwood and Shildon in County Durham. Now at the age of 28, when he should be at his peak, he is retired and works as a Gas Technician.
I always had high hopes for Gardner, I thought he looked like he was going to make it. Maybe had he been with a team on the up at the right time things would have worked out differently, as we often here that youngsters that emerge into struggling teams tend to get adversely affected. Neither Gardner or Beaumont for that matter are still in the game. and I think that merely illuminates thats throwing youngsters into a struggling team merely hinders them.
Ross is on Twitter @Rossygardner.