Villa's Gardner determined to stay grounded

Aston Villa midfielder Craig Gardner is determined not to allow Premiership fame go to his head.

Gardner told the Sunday Mercury: "Footballers have many cling-ons and I've been aware of that. My family, my girlfriend and my friends are always there for me, through the hard times and the good times.

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"These cling-ons are only there when you are doing well. Obviously my family have been there all through my life and always will be there for me. I just stick to a certain amount of people and don't get carried away. I go and see my mum and dad a lot, go in the shops that I used to go in as a boy, the restaurants that I used to go in as a boy. I'll always be the same to whoever I talk to, I still go to the same places I was brought up in.

"I'm not someone who will go and spend £500 on a steak, I'll pay £2.50. Not because I'm tight or hard up, I'm just normal. I'm always thinking about football because I love football - that's my bread and butter, that's my work I never switch off from football.

"My mates love football they are always asking questions 'what's it like to be this or that?', I say 'it's brilliant, I'm living a dream'. We go out for a game of snooker or something to eat, they are always asking me so I can never blank football out of my head, it's my life.

"My family don't need to give me a reality check but they'd be the first to if I needed one, they'd give me a kick up the butt.

"They are just like me, down to earth and easy to get on with. I think people are shocked when they come up to me and say 'can I have a picture?' and I'm like 'yeah, yeah'. They are not used to that, they're used to 'can you wait five minutes'. They're not used to seeing me walk around Tesco or walking to the local newsagents, not many people see me as a footballer, they just see me as Craig Gardner."

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