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Thursday, October 18, 2012
Gardner optimistic ahead of derby

Kristan Heneage

Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner is determined to secure bragging rights in the derby with Newcastle United this weekend.

Sunderland host the Magpies on Sunday and Gardner, 25, is desperate to take all three points.

"The fact I'm not from Sunderland or Newcastle makes no difference," he told the Newcastle Chronicle.

"As players, we know what the fans want and we know what they need - it's all about the bragging rights. We will get into that mindset and give absolutely everything on the day for our fans.

"We know we're capable of beating anyone at home - we showed that last season by beating Man City - and Martin O'Neill has got a great record in derbies, particularly in Villa-Blues games.

"The lads can't wait for the game. We're raring to go. We're all fit and sharp and we want to win for the fans. They will be right behind us, and it's going to be an awesome game. Hopefully we can come away with all three points."

Gardner's first home game for the club was the Wear-Tyne derby in 2010, but he said he was well prepared thanks to the advice of former Birmingham team-mate Kevin Philips.

"Kev Phillips had already told me what it would be like even before I came here, and I'm not stupid - I know that Sunderland-Newcastle is a massive, massive derby, just like Aston Villa-Birmingham and Celtic-Rangers," he said.

"Kev's not only a top-class player, he is a top-class bloke and, everywhere he goes, he's a legend.

"When I was at Blues and there was talk of me coming here, I spoke to him about Sunderland. He said it's an unbelievable club and the fans would always back you.

"He said that I was a player who always gives 100% and that's exactly what the Sunderland fans want - in every game, never mind in a derby."

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