Taylor Gardner-Hickman on belonging at Bristol City, his West Brom journey and channelling his inner David Beckham

The midfielder will return to The Hawthorns on Saturday
Gardner-Hickman will return to The Hawthorns as an opposition player for the first time on SaturdayGardner-Hickman will return to The Hawthorns as an opposition player for the first time on Saturday
Gardner-Hickman will return to The Hawthorns as an opposition player for the first time on Saturday

Taylor Gardner-Hickman says he 'belongs' at Bristol City following his permanent move from boyhood club West Bromwich Albion in January.

The midfielder initially joined City on loan, but the move was made permanent earlier this year after the 22-year-old made a strong impression at Ashton Gate.

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Gardner-Hickman will face off against the Baggies for the first time as an opposition player on Saturday but insists his mind is solely on the Robins.

"Bristol City is where I'm at and it's where I belong," he said. "Ultimately, at the end of the day I'm going there to compete, I'm a competitor and all I want to do is win."

Gardner-Hickman has established himself as a regular on the teamsheet at City initially under Nigel Pearson and now Liam Manning.

He has formed a steady relationship alongside both Joe Williams and Matty James at times in the middle of the park and reflected on his maiden season in BS3.

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"I think it's been good. I mean, it's obvious that we haven't been on the best run up until the last game, we needed that win and the boys and the staff have been terrific in terms of how we've all been together collectively on and off the pitch," he said.

"No one's been too low and when we were in the good moments, no one's been too high either. We've got a level-headed group, it's what we need and it's helped us."

The Telford-born midfielder spent 14 years at the Baggies from the age of seven until 21 but said he is pleased with his decision to leave the club.

"I think it was definitely the right time in my career to make the move," he said. "I'd like to think it's paid off quite well. I've just tried to be consistent and learn as many new things as I can. Everyone's made it so easy for me to settle in, it's been it's been really good."

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After progressing through the ranks at WBA, Gardner-Hickman made his professional debut for the club in a 6-0 defeat to Arsenal in August 2021.

"Being at a club since I was seven, it's been a long time, so I do owe a lot to them in terms of that," he said.

"That's where my journey started and where I got given the chance to make my professional debut, so I'm very grateful.

"I've learned so many great things and have so many great memories there, but you have to move on in football and nothing lasts forever, you've got to make the most of it while you can."

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The midfielder has netted just once so far for the Robins, a 25-yard rocket against Middlesbrough last year, and said he's not sure whether he'll celebrate if he adds to that strike on Saturday.

"I've got a score first, that's the first job!" He joked. I'll just focus on trying to do that and then see what happens from there.

"I get excited about every game, I love playing football, it's my job and I'm a competitor first at the end of the day. No friends until the final whistle and let's see if we still have any after the final whistle."

While Gardner-Hickman has established himself as a central midfielder over recent months, he hasn't always played in the centre of the pitch.

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"I used to play further forwards in the academy, so I think it (ball striking) naturally comes with that as well. I played as a number 10, on the wing, sometimes as a nine - I was a bit all over the place," he said.

"I even played as a goalkeeper when I was younger, just to fill in for a game because ours was injured. I think it all helps, especially as you grow up, you kind of don't see it back then, but when you look back, it helps in terms of your knowledge of what each position needs."

Gardner-Hickman has referenced David Beckham in the past and reiterated his admiration for the Manchester United legend, as well as another former United and Real Madrid star.

"I've always said Cristiano Ronaldo has been the one for me just purely based on how hard he works and his mentality," he said.

"David Beckham, as you know, some of the things he could do with a ball in terms of putting it on a sixpence for anyone. It's something I try and emulate, especially in terms of set pieces."

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