Sunderland target Craig Gardner refuses to commit to Birmingham City

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SUNDERLAND target Craig Gardner has paved the way for his exit from Birmingham City after refusing to commit his future to the club.

The central midfielder says he is confused and uncertain over where his future lies, but the fact that he hasn’t nailed his colours to the relegated Blues’ mast is an indication that he is happy to leave.

Privately, he has accepted that his 18-month stay at St Andrew’s is over, with competition fierce among Premier League clubs for his signature. Publicly though, he will only point out that no-one really knows what is going to happen to Birmingham City and its squad this summer.

“There’s a cloud over everybody’s head,” said the 24-year-old, who joined Birmingham from Villa 18 months ago in a £3m deal.

“Nobody knows what’s happening.

“We’ve gone down to the Championship, we’ve lost our manager. Are players leaving, is money going to be spent?

“There’s just so much to sort out and I’ve seen all the criticism Alex McLeish has been getting and I just think it’s a little unfair.

“Whether he goes to the Villa, I don’t know.

“If it happens, it happens.

“Only time will tell.

“You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.

“But him going, it’s a big blow for us. He’s a top manager and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

“Let’s not forget that this season we won the Carling Cup, last season we finished in our highest position in the league for 50-odd years, we made it to two FA Cup quarter-finals and every single player in that dressing room respects him and will be upset to see him go.”

McLeish’s shock departure is another factor which will allow Gardner to leave Birmingham with a clear conscience as he look to makes the right move for his career.

Wolves are ready to offer him an instant return to the top flight and manager Mick McCarthy knows the chance for the Solihull-born midfielder to stay in the West Midlands is the biggest factor in Molineux’s favour.

But Sunderland have identified him as one of their major targets and plan to be both ambitious and aggressive in their pursuit of a player whose goal threat from midfield would bring a new and welcome dimension to the Black Cats’ squad.