The 26-year-old, playing his first game in front of new boss Paolo di Canio, was booked for the 10th time this season for a challenge on the Chelsea striker during the Black Cats' 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge at the weekend, and will now serve a two-match ban.
However, while television pundits voiced the opinion after the game that he was perhaps fortunate not to receive a red card for his tackle, Gardner has insisted he should not even have been cautioned. The former Birmingham man told the Journal: "It's not the start that I wanted, but it's not a yellow card. It was a fair tackle. He's just rolled around and forced the booking."
He added: "I'll be involved on the training pitch, I'll be in the tunnel before the game, geeing every one of our lads up.
"I can assure the fans I'll get the team up for it, I'll be right behind every player on Sunday. It's football, but there we are."
Ba failed to re-appear after the break as Chelsea overturned a 1-0 deficit with the help of Matt Kilgallon's own goal and Branislav Ivanovic's fortuitous winner.
The defeat means Sunderland are without a win in nine league games and have taken just three points from the last 27 on offer to slip deep into relegation trouble ahead of their visit to St James' Park, where a win for Newcastle would all but end the Magpies' own fears of being dragged into the scrap at the foot of the table.
- Sports & Recreation