Few Wycombe signings in recent times have arrived with such an interesting backstory. The son of a Labour MP, our latest midfield recruit came to Wycombe by way of north London, Hertfordshire, Moscow and St Petersburg.
Gardiner-Smith, whose father Barry Gardiner is Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, moved to the Russian capital aged 16 and joined CSKA. A year later, he headed to Zenit. Although never made a competitive senior appearance for the club, he did play in one friendly under then-manager Roberto Mancini.
The 22-year-old returned to England last year, armed with some invaluable life experience and a second language – he’s fluent in Russian, which he learnt with Belgium international Nicholas Lombaerts. 2018/19 saw him turn out for National League South St Albans City Premier Hendon, his first spells in men’s football.
“I see coming into Non-League as another step in my career,” he told the Non-League Paper back in February. That’s what it’s been: a step. He and all those concerned will be hoping that his entry into the professional game ends up being less of a step and more of a phase.
A certain Luke O’Nien brought Gardiner-Smith to Gareth and co.’s attention, and while the new man is very much his own player, comparisons to the former Adams Park favourite augur well. Trialist-CM1, as he was previously known, earned his one-year deal with some lively performances in the first three pre-season matches, which included a goal with the last kick of the game in the 1-1 draw at Barnet.
As with any little known quantity, it’s largely a case of ‘wait and see’ and trust the gaffer’s judgement. That said, while Gardiner-Smith remains something of a mystery, there can be no doubt that he possesses the work rate and commitment needed to be a Wycombe midfielder under Ainsworth; passengers won’t be tolerated. JGS (let’s be honest, we’re all going to call him that) has nine months to prove his worth and, assuming Curtis Thompson is still a little way off returning, he could have the chance to make an instant impact.
Quick Facts & Stats
Born: 3rd Jul 1997 in Cambridge
Former clubs: Hendon (2019), St Albans City (2018-2019)
Senior record: 19 appearances, 0 goals
Chairboys Trivia Teaser
Wycombe is the first League club of Gardiner-Smith and which other current Blues player?