Midfielder on his arrival, next season, Foster and Sessegnon (FULL VIDEO)
CRAIG Gardner admits he was praying for a move to Albion and is now buzzing about being back in the Midlands – where he feels his best years are still to come.
The versatile midfielder signed a three-year contract with the Baggies yesterday, with a further year’s option in the club’s favour.
He will officially join on a Bosman transfer on July 1 when his deal at fellow Barclays Premier League outfit Sunderland expires.
Gardner, who has previously played for both Villa and Blues, is a player Albion have followed for some time and even tried to sign in the January transfer window.
And the Solihull-born 27-year-old is absolutely delighted an agreement has now been completed to bring him to The Hawthorns.
“It’s obviously a pleasure, it’s a great club,” Gardner said shortly after completing his medical.
“I’ve got a lot of friends here and I’m just buzzing that I’m back at home in the Midlands where I enjoy my football the most and feel I play my best football.
“I was linked with West Brom previously and I was just praying it happened this time. Now eventually it has happened so I’m over the moon.”
Gardner added: “People say you have to be happy at home to be happy in your job - and when you’ve got your friends and family around you encouraging and supporting you then that’s when you’ll play your best football.
“Thankfully now I’ve got that.”
Gardner emerged through the youth ranks at Villa and made 80 appearances for the club before completing a cross-city switch to Blues in January 2010.
He enjoyed 18 months with City and played a key role in the club’s 2011 League Cup triumph.
Gardner lined up alongside Ben Foster at St Andrew’s as well as Liam Ridgewell, who was last week released by the Baggies.
The duo dished out plenty of positives about life in B71 - but Gardner insists he needed no persuading to sign on the dotted line.
“Fozzy is a good friend of mine, we’ve always kept in touch, and it’s the same with Ridgy as well,” he said.
“They’ve always said good things about the club.
“But they didn’t really need to sell it to me because I was already taken by the club.
“It’s a great place and I’m just looking forward to next season.”
The former England Under-21 international joined Sunderland in the summer of 2011 and has spent the last three years at the Stadium of Light.
Two of those seasons were played out alongside Stephane Sessegnon, who will be another familiar face when Albion’s players return for pre-season training at the start of July.
“Sess is a good lad and a top player,” Gardner added.
“I’m looking forward to playing with him again and scoring some goals.”