He was the last of the young guns still waiting for his debut after the likes of Ledley King, Gary Doherty, Alton Thelwell, Matthew Etherington, Simon Davies and Dave McEwen all tasted Premiership action.
Arguably the pick of the bunch in pre-season, a thigh injury held Gardner back until October and since then he had been in a number of squads without making the breakthrough.
But the waiting was over on Saturday when the tall, cultured defender finally made his debut as a substitute at Derby County almost a year after his £1m move from Port Vale.
Gardner said: “I’ve been here a year now without a debut and most people say it is best to get your debut out of the way as quickly as possible.
“It has been dragging on for me but now I’ve got it out the way and I can concentrate on playing a few more games.
“I was disappointed that everyone was getting a chance and I wasn’t. I just wanted the chance to show what I could do.
“To the gaffer’s credit he’s just thrown me in and I was grateful to him for doing that. I don’t want to stop there though. I want to keep playing, keep playing well for the reserves and hopefully get another chance.”
The 20-year-old slotted comfortably into the action in a three-man defence at Pride Park and with us barely tested defensively, showed his comfort on the ball and a willingness to probe forward in the 2-1 defeat.
“It was great to get my chance,” he added. “It was a little unexpected, the gaffer just told me at half-time that I was going on because we were struggling with long balls.
“He just said ‘get on there and see how you cope with it’. It was nice to get on and to get a feel for the Premiership.
“I didn’t have a lot of time for nerves. I just got my head on the game and got on with it. It was a great experience and nice to get a feel for the atmosphere.”
Anthony Gardner feels like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.