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Career Retrospective: Marco Gabbiadini

By Albatross
January 19 2004

Hartlepool United have confirmed that veteran forward Marco Gabbiadini has decided to retire. The much-travelled striker has decided to call it a day due to knee problems - an operation in December failed to clear things up and Marco has decided it's time to hang up his boots.

Gabbiadini's retirement was partially expected - the news that he needed a further scan was ominous, and it seems his ageing knees have finally given up the ghost. He hadn't played since the end of November, and so his brief playing cameo at Pools has come to an end just before his 36th birthday tomorrow (20/1).

Marco Gabbiadini must rate as one of the most familiar names in North-East football. He started as an apprentice at York, and soon started to make his mark - in 50 starts and 21 sub appearances over two years, he notched up 18 goals. When York boss Denis Smith moved on to a Sunderland side that had just been relegated, he knew exactly who he wanted: and 80,000 later Gabbiadini - not yet 20 - found himself lining up in Sunderland's colours alongside the likes of Eric Gates.

He made an immediate impact at Roker Park, firing the goals that saw the Mackems promoted as champions - though he couldn't score past Pools in the famous Sherpa Van Trophy game! Goals continued to flow in Division 2, and he then entered Sunderland folklore with a vengeance the following season - scoring against Newcastle in the Playoff Semi-final, as Sunderland reached the Premiership following Swindon's misdemeanours. Goals proved a little harder to come by in the top division - Marco did well enough to earn a call-up for England B though, and following relegation Crystal Palace paid 1.8million for him.

He didn't have a great time at Selhurst Park, in part due to the side not playing to his strengths, and in part because he was having to replace crowd favourite Ian Wright. Seven goals, 25 starts and four months after arriving, Derby paid out 1million for him. His time with the Rams was much more pleasurable, scoring almost 70 goals before leaving the club at the end of a 1996/7 season that also saw him have loan spells at Birmingham and Oxford.

At the age of 29, Marco had decided to try playing abroad. Greece was the word, and he signed for Panionios; eleven appearances and four goals in the top division followed. However, he didn't have the best of times and despite having agreed a two year deal by Christmas he was back in the UK; he joined Stoke City on a monthly basis, but scored just one goal in nine appearances (most as a sub) before a change of management saw him frozen out. Instead he found himself back where he started, playing for York until the end of the season but only making a handful of appearances.

At this point it looked like it might be the end of the road for Gabbiadini. At the age of 30, with over 140 league goals behind him, he was running out of options - until Darlington made what proved to be an inspired signing. In two years he scored more than 50 goals for our local rivals, a burst that won him the accolade of their greatest ever player (though some Loids want to take that back) and took them to a playoff final. On the way he made himself rather unpopular with Hartlepool fans - three in six appearances against us, including a crucial goal in the Playoff Semi, meant he was an acknowledged threat and so a target for vitriol. However, behind the scenes all was not well - Reynolds and Hodgson were clashing, and Gabbiadini's future was uncertain - to the extent that Rushden - still non-league at this point - tabled a big money offer for him. To no-one's great surprise, Gabbiadini decided to leave after his contract expired.

Much speculation surrounded his destination - York and Doncaster were both mentioned - but it was Northampton, in Division 2, that made Gabba an offer he couldn't refuse. Thirty goals came in three seasons, but so did injuries - and when he did feature in the Cobblers' side it was as often as a midfielder as a forward. He still managed to score 14 times last season though, and although by now he was 35 he still felt able to do a job for at least one more season. With business interests in York, a North-East team would be ideal.... and despite his unpopularity with the fans, Pools had enquired about him several times during his time at Northampton. The close season saw him training briefly with Darlington, before Neale Cooper came in for him - and he had no qualms about signing up at Victoria Park.

The reaction of the fans was mixed. Here was a former Darlington hero, a tormentor of us on a number of occasions, about to pull on the blue and white shirt. Some were irate, others welcomed him - and Darlington fans went livid. Not only had their hero signed for us - he'd chosen Pools ahead of them.

As it turned out, Gabbiadini's career at the Vic has been a brief one. Just twelve starts and six sub appearances - but his seven goals, and intelligent play, gave us a little something extra at times. His double against Whitby in the FA Cup - what proved to his last start and final goals - put Pools on track, and he scored vital goals against Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City and Stockport that gained us two draws and a win.

One thing that it does leave Pools with is fewer options up front. With Gabbiadini now retired, and Richardson and Henderson transferred, our striking options seem to be Williams, Porter, Robinson and Jack Wilkinson in approximately that order. Boyd may find himself recalled from Boston, but with two strikers out of the door in as many weeks, Cooper may be planning another transfer swoop. Watch this space.

Marco Gabbiadini Club Career Stats:
Clubs played for: York City, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Derby County, Birmingham City (loan), Oxford United (loan), Panionios (Greece), Stoke City (monthly contract), York City, Darlington, Northampton Town, Hartlepool United.
Overall Played: 687 (+105 Sub), Scored: 277
League Played: 582 (+88 Sub), Scored 227
For Hartlepool United: 12 (+6 Sub), Scored 7

Note: these figures may differ from those elsewhere; this is because they include games and goals scored for Panionios (Greece) - Gabbiadini made 11 appearances (3 sub) and scored four goals there in 1997/8.

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