Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Anthony Gardner has broken no bones, but it looks like a two-month absence for the ex-England defender with ankle ligament damage.
This is clearly a big setback for Gardner, a defender of ability, but his phenomenal injury record suggests that nobody should be surprised that he is on the treatment table again.
Gardner suffered the injury in a typically unfortunate manner, landing awkwardly after challenging Matthew Upson in the Tigers penalty area at West Ham United on Saturday. His awful back injury last season was suffered in similar post-impact circumstances at Arsenal, and generally his promising career has been affected and stalled by one daft or luckless knock after another.
Yet despite his presence as an experienced defender, as well as team captain, his absence may not be sorely felt. Defensive cover is available and champing at the bit in the shape of Kamil Zayatte, who is the best centre back at the club anyway, while Gardner simply isn't a captain of substance and has only had the job through a mixture of politics and default. Worthier candidates are already in the starting XI and George Boateng's re-appointment to the role is a shoo-in.
Even as a defender, Gardner somehow doesn't convince everyone. His big strength seems to be positional play, to go with the advantage in the air that a 6ft 4in frame naturally provides. But he is quiet and sometimes panicky in possession of the ball. Confidence evidently plays a part in his game, and he operates best with a ball-playing defender alongside him, hence why the presence of Zayatte seemed to work best for him.
Since Zayatte's injury, Gardner has struggled to be the senior defender. Steven Mouyokolo's emergence has been tremendous for the young Frenchman but has knocked Gardner a little. Mouyokolo came in for the home game against Wolves and played well, but Gardner was distracted too often, as if he felt his game mainly consisted of seeing his new, raw defensive partner through the match. He was slipshod in possession and conceded a calamitous, comical own goal. He has not looked right since Mouyokolo came in, and yet Mouyokolo is not to blame at all.
Zayatte has been fit again for a while and he and Mouyokolo will partner one another when City return to action a week on Sunday and maybe this will be the partnership that rings truest. Precociousness overtakes experience a little, though Zayatte is no defensive fool (despite being something of a wildcard at times) and while the investment in Gardner means he would rarely be out of the side if entirely fit, there is every opportunity for the two defenders he leaves behind to make his recovery all the more agonising. There is something about the prospect of a Zayatte/Mouyokolo partnership that just feels right already, even though it has yet to feature in a Hull City team and it has taken the sad sight of Gardner being stretchered off yet again to realise this.
Posted by Boyhood Dreams