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Pearce impressed by Villa's Gardner

England U21 boss Stuart Pearce admits Aston Villa midfielder Craig Gardner has given him a big headache.

Gardner has been used as an emergency right-back for his club this season but got his chance in the middle of the park in the 3-0 win for the Under-21s in Montenegro.

Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone was suspended for the clash at the Pod Goricom Stadium and is available for the next Euro 2009 qualifier, in Bulgaria on Tuesday.

Andrew Surman is also challenging for a place after making a goalscoring debut, while Fabrice Muamba came on in Podgorica and anchored, but it is Gardner who currently has the shirt.

"His natural position is a midfield player and he gives me options," said Pearce.

"We looked at him in the friendly against Romania and we felt that his strength was his passing, without a doubt.

"He's got a great eye for a pass and keeps possession well and like many in the squad it's about getting minutes on the pitch."

Pearce feels Gardner gives an example of how his side can change shape depending on whether they are chasing a game or - in the case of Friday night when they went two goals ahead within 10 minutes - protecting a lead.

"The beauty of this squad is how adaptable it is," Pearce added. "Theo Walcott can play anywhere across the front four, if Craig can play in the midfield or at right-back then it's helpful to me.

"I thought he had a decent game against Montenegro, and I think he'll only improve with the more games he plays."

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Tribal Football Staff

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