Former Chesterfield man who signed for John Sheridan elsewhere won't rule out Proact return, but retains Football League hopes
Dan Gardner won't rule out a return to former club Chesterfield but admits he hopes to remain a Football League player next season.
The attacking midfielder was released by Oldham Athletic at the end of the season, two years after leaving the Proact.
His second season at Boundary Park was cut short by a serious knee injury, but he's well on his way to a full recovery and expects to be ready for match action very early in the 2019/20 campaign.
READ: Former Spireites on the move this summer"It's all good, I've done four months and a week now (of rehab)," he said.
"I just went to get my check up with the surgeon. He said it's all going well, the ACL is fine, stronger than it's been.
"He's said kick on, keep getting it strong.
"I just need to get my fitness now.
"I've got to go and see him in August and he'll give me the go ahead then to start training.
"I'll probably be back at the end of August, start of September."
His first season as a Latic ended in relegation and his second ended prematurely through injury.
The 'gutting' knee problem occurred in November last year, ending his run of 20 unbroken 2018/19 League Two starts.
"It's been a bit up and down," he said of his post-Proact life in the game.
"I've had a good time at Oldham to be fair. The first season we didn't get off to a great start and then played well here and there. We had a very good team, we just couldn't get out of the situation we were in down the bottom and didn't get enough points to stay up.
"With the team we had we should never have been down there, but things happen in football and that's how it is.
"It was quite a good season for me (personally), I got a few awards like Players' Player. I thought I played really well, I played every game I was available for, apart from suspension at the start of the season, I played every single game and every game in League Two.
"I thought I did okay.
"The injury (last season) was gutting.
"I knew straight away, as soon as I landed over on my knee, that it was a bad one.
"I feel fitter than I've ever been though. I'm looking forward to coming back and I know I'll be better than I was before."
The 29-year-old doesn't believe the injury will stop him from finding a new club this summer.
"It's not been a problem," he said.
"When I was playing, I was playing well and had interest from League One.
"I've had offers from a few League Two clubs already."
He says the offers on the table don't currently include one from Chesterfield, but acknowledges that he's likely to be linked with the Spireites given his history with them and manager John Sheridan.
It was Sheridan who took Gardner to Oldham in 2017.
Should the opportunity arise to work with the boss again, Gardner would give it plenty of thought.
"I know Shez well but I've not really spoke to him," said Gardner.
"I've spoke to a few people that know him and that, and there's always going to be talk about me going back because of Shez and because I was there before, how much I like the club.
"There's not been any talks or anything as of yet, but it's still early days.
"It's definitely something I'd consider. Obviously I'd like to stay in the league, but Chesterfield is a club I'd want to be in the league and it's not something I'd rule out.
"It would have to be a long term plan for myself, to get the club back to where it should be, which is probably in League One."
Whether or not he ever makes a comeback as a Spireite, Gardner will continue to follow their progress.
He made 97 league appearances during his three and half year stay at the Proact and hasn't relished watching from afar as they've slid out of the Football League.
"It has been a massive surprise.
"It's a big club, it's run the right way, the owner puts his money in every single year.
"It was a shock to see. I looked out for them every week and it was hard to look at.
"Chesterfield is probably the best club I've been at, the way everything is run, the people there.
"Stuff like that happens in football and you've just got to go again."
And he believes in Sheridan they've got the right manager in place to lead them back to where he feels they belong.
"Shez is a great players' person.
"He knows his stuff.
"He's been around the leagues, done it at Oldham, Plymouth, done it with Chesterfield before.
"Most definitely I'd say he's the perfect man for the job."