Gardner - who battled homesickness last season - says he is delighted to be part of the Martin O'Neill revolution after "snapping out" of the funk that left his Sunderland career in stall mode 12 months ago.
"Sunderland now reminds me of being at Villa when we were strengthening," he told The Journal.
"You sit there and you see Ashley Young, James Milner, John Carew and you think flippin' hell, these are good players. You think 'I'm involved in this'. That's what we want to do, we want to finish high in the league.
"The fans deserve it. Sunderland have had a yo-yo period but the gaffer is not a yo-yo manager. He wants to finish in the top six, the top eight every season and we can do that here."