Gardner must earn new deal
Paul Lambert has told Gary Gardner that he will have to prove his form and fitness before landing a new contract at Aston Villa.
A product of Villa's academy system, the 21-year-old midfielder will see his current deal expire at the end of the season.
The clock is now ticking on his efforts to catch Lambert's eye, with a one-month loan spell sanctioned at Championship outfit Sheffield Wednesday.
Villa will, however, closely monitor his progress at Hillsborough - following a string of niggling knocks - before deciding whether he will be offered fresh terms or be released.
Asked if there was still a chance of Gardner forming part of his long-term plans, Lambert said in the Birmingham Mail: "There's still a chance, yes, but it's hard for me to judge him when I haven't seen much of him due to his injuries.
"He's had injuries where it's been long term, with his cruciate and then his back.
"The thing about Gary is he's a really good kid, really nice guy and a really top lad that wants to do well. We have to keep looking at him over the next few months.
"There is scope for something. I'm not dismissing it, I just need to see the progress that he makes when he's out playing.
"He's been really unfortunate with injuries, but I'm not dismissing anything at all.
"We have to see more of him performing at a level where we think he can make an impact here. We'll keep a close eye on him while he's out on loan."