Rookie defender Craig Gardner has paid tribute to Aston Villa's star striker John Carew and revealed he is delighted the giant Norwegian is on the same side he would not relish marking him!

Gardner has been a temporary right-back for Martin O'Neill's side whenever called upon this season and made the step up again at half-time in Villa's 4-1 victory over Newcastle United in the team's last Barclays Premier League fixture a fortnight ago.

The England Under-21 midfielder came in for Swedish defender Olof Mellberg and played his part in Villa's second-half fight-back which saw Carew score a hat-trick.

The Yardley-born youngster, who grew up cheering Villa on from the terraces, said: "When John Carew is in that form, there is no stopping him.

"I don't think there is any defender in the world that can match him physically.

"He is a nightmare for our defenders to mark him in training. Martin Laursen has been unbelievable this season but he does not relish playing against John Carew and neither would I."

Gardner has been a regular on the bench this season and made a big impact whenever called upon.

Having started the season at right-back before Olof Mellberg was repositioned, he has shown he can play in a number of roles and hopes his appearance for 45 minutes against the Magpies' has done his cause no harm.

He said: "I am staking a claim to stay at right-back or at least I want to stake a claim to stay in the side.

"Whether it is at right-back, right side of midfield or central midfield I don't mind and the gaffer knows that.

"Hopefully I am in the team for the next game at Reading and if it is right-back, I don't really care to be honest. I just want to be playing and playing for Aston Villa."

Talking about the resilience Martin O'Neill's men showed in coming back after going a goal down to Newcastle United's Michael Owen, Gardner said: "In the second half we showed how good a team we actually are and we battered Newcastle just to show our desire to succeed.

"The atmosphere in the dressing room before we went back out was unreal. Everyone got psyched up, it was amazing, and we worked our socks off and got a result.

"The gaffer's middle name should be 'belief' because if we were 6-0 down, we would make us think we could win 7-6. He is just unbelievable and all credit to him."