SAINTS wing Ade Gardner, who last month called time on a productive playing career to join the club’s backroom staff, has many achievements to look back from his time in the red vee.

Joining from Barrow at the end of 2001 Gardner became one of the club’s most prolific wingers scoring 173 tries in 286 games.

Although he spent his last year away from the club – on loan at Hull KR – and his previous two season had been curtailed by injury, Gardner on the whole says the good times far outweigh the negative parts.

After establishing himself as a first team regular in 2003, he was the club's highest try scorer in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Super League seasons.

Gardner was integral to the club’s 2006 Grand Slam and scored two vital tries in the win over Brisbane in the World Club Challenge in 2007.

Gardner looks back fondly at that early part of his career, when admittedly he had much to learn.

He said: “I have plenty of good memories, but my first year was a difficult transition coming in from Barrow because I was nowhere near.

“It was the biggest shock of my life and got a bit of stick off the gaffer at the time – Ian Millward - and a few of the boys got into me as well to tell me this was not Barrow anymore and players are expected to be killing it every week and not making mistakes.

“So that first off season was pretty tough and I think I started to realise what I needed to do to get along.

“That year I worked a lot with Sean Hoppe and Darren Britt who were good professionals and I learned a lot from them.

“My second game in the first team was as part of the weakened team at Bradford the week before the 2002 Challenge Cup Final – it stuck out for me because I set up a try and scored my first Super League try – that was a bit of baptism of fire.”

Two years later a then 20—year-old Gardner started the first of what become four Challenge Cup Finals when Millward gave him the nod to start ahead of Dominic Feaunati.

It was a classic Millennium Stadium win over Wigan – and came after Saints had beaten all of the league’s best to get there.

“Cardiff was special – and if you ask Longy and Scully what the best final was they will say that one as well,” Gardner said.

“It was mine and Wilko’s first final as well and we were both in the same boat having moved away to live by ourselves. I remember how I felt when Basil said I was starting.

“We played the toughest route to get to that final – Bradford away, Leeds, Hull at home and then Huddersfield in semis - it was the entire top 5.

“We had had a difficult season the year before but coming into that year there was a really good team spirit and everyone was best mates.

To win that final was something else and remember seeing my mam and dad in the crowd being so proud. It was one of the proudest moments of my career.”

But the departure of Millward in 2005 and arrival of new boss Daniel Anderson took the wing’s career up to another level.

And he was the first coach to use Gardner’s physical attributes – which when combined with Sean Long’s pin point kicking proved lethal.

“Daniel was a great reader of how people were, what abilities they had and the things they did well.

“For me personally I was still raw. I’m not one of these that had played since they were seven, I was a late comer and still had a lot to develop.

“Daniel was first realise my jumping ability and that’s what made my game in 2006 and the ability to take the high ball. He made me safe under it as well “He was just a fantastic coach and knew everyone’s personality – and was a great man manager.

“He was my best coach by a long way – 2006 was the stuff dreams are made out of the whole season.

“Every game was tricky but we made it look easy – from game one at Harlequins.

“If you look at the quality of that side it was packed with great legends – the memories of that season will live long on and it is all written down now in the book on that year.”

If that 2006 campaign was as good as it gets, the low point came at the end of the 2010 season when the then coach Mick Potter opted to change the team at the end of the season – which meant he was omitted for the Grand Final clash with Wigan.

But being left out of Saints’ last ever game at Knowsley Road hurt Gardner even more than missing the finale.

He explained: “If I am honest missing that last game at the ground that had been such a big part of my career hurt more than missing the 2010 Grand Final.

“I have never been one to be knocking on the coach’s door or going off on one. But when Mick told me I was not playing I was really upset that week.

“I trained really hard that week because to be a Saint and play at Knowsley Road was what it was about.

“I was lucky enough to play in the Cas game – billed as the last League game – and I had put in a few big plays to get us back in the game but the last game against Huddersfield was difficult to watch.”

He was not recalled for the final a week later, but there was no dummies being spat out – instead of drowning his sorrows with his defeated teammates he headed up to play for Cumbria the following day in the Gary Purdham Memorial game against England.

“There was no way I was not going to play for Cumbria – I wanted to get a game in and compete. It was a sad occasion – but the match was great and I was proud to represent the Purdham family and try my best.

“I didn’t want to spit my dummy out – it was good for me that game and gave me a heap of confidence which I turned into a positive for the new season.”

Gardner had strong seasons in 2011 and 2012 – although they were ended by knee injuries and a ruptuired Achilles respectively.

Turning his game into the club’s strongest carrier of the ball had a price and he suffered a lot of knocks for those brave carries.

His 2013 campaign was curtailed in June when Gardner suffered a serious head injury at Huddersfield – it was his last game for the Saints with the wing sent out to Hull KR for the whole of last term.

But Gardner reviews a career where the good times – even in adversity – have far outweighed the bad.

“I take great memories away from my playing career and built my work ethic on not letting things beat me.

“When you are at a club like Saints, the environment and the support you get just wants to get out there and play as hard as you can and I am so glad I had that chance,” he said.