Irvine urges Gardner to retain spirit
CRAIG Gardner returns to first-team duty this weekend with a clear mandate from Alan Irvine: "Please don't change."
The midfielder missed Albion's defeat to Newcastle after picking up his fifth yellow card in the 1-0 win at Leicester.
Gardner is available again for selection, with Albion head coach Irvine claiming the player's attributes had outweighed his accumulation of five yellow cards.
Irvine said: "I think it's a hazard of the way he plays, he is extremely committed. He has had some silly bookings and got some early on as well but he is a really wholehearted player. He is very, very committed.
"He is not somebody who is going to go around kicking people but being committed he mis-times things at different times.
"He was devastated (to miss the Newcastle game). He was extremely unhappy about the fact he got this suspension and couldn't play for us."
Irvine continued: "I don't want him to change the way he is playing, but I don't want him to be booked either.
"It's really important, especially the way things are nowadays, that players are extremely disciplined the way they play because you pick up bookings much easier now that you did in the past.
"He has slipped in and just got on with it. The group love him, the staff love him. He's fantastic to have around the place.
"His training every single day is as good as he can do. I am not saying he doesn't make mistakes because he does like every other player.
"You never, ever have to get on at him to train a bit harder or anything like that.
"He's a really fit lad, he's a very good professional, a non-drinker - which I think nowadays is very important. You are competing against a lot of non-drinkers so why would you give them an edge? "He is great, he is a dream to work with.
"He is a very fit lad. He was right up at the front in training in pre-season and that's the way he goes about his job every day."