DAN Gardner hopes to stay in the Football League as he plots a recovery from a serious knee injury.

Recently released by Latics, the 29-year-old is on track to return early in the new season and is weighing up a couple of options.

Surgeons have given him the order to step-up his workload in rehabilitation and with further checks expected in the coming weeks, a return to full training is pencilled in for August or September.

“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.

“It’s not been a problem. 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.”

Gardner has established himself as a regular under Frankie Bunn last season, missing just one game in the Checkatrade Trophy before picking up cruciate ligament damage in a rain-soaked 1-1 draw with Lincoln.

He made 74 appearances in all, scoring three times, but was released alongside Jose Baxter and Peter Clarke in May, sparking major rumour that he was about to be reunited with his former boss John Sheridan at Chesterfield.

Gardner has not ruled out a move to his former club but hopes his form with Oldham during the first few months of last season will open up more offers from above Conference level.

“I know Shez well but I’ve not really spoke to him,” he told the Derbyshire Times.

“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.”

Gardner was brought to Boundary Park by Sheridan and was part of the side that made a nightmarish start to the 2017/18 campaign.

Richie Wellens’ arrival signalled an upturn in form but it came too late to prevent the club dropping into the fourth tier for the first time since 1971.

Gardner’s second season was going well enough until the injury, which came a month before Bunn was sacked unceremoniously after six months in charge and with the club sitting in mid-table.

Now the former Crewe trainee is looking towards a fresh start and a full recovery in the coming weeks.

“It’s been a bit up and down,” he said of his time with the Latics.

“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.”