As a youngster I quickly became accustomed to the trials and tribulations that were part and parcel of following the lads in red and white. Watching the current side’s push for European football seems a million miles from the football that had been served up over the years. I remember idolising players such as Craig Russell and Kevin Phillips and would wax lyrical as to their undoubted world class abilities only for the more knowledgeable around me at Roker or the SOL to inform me "Aye, but he’s nee Marco son"
It would be fair to say that eighties were far from a highlight in Sunderland’s history, however in September of 1987 a young man from Nottingham was to provide some much needed cheer for the Sunderland faithful.
The exotic sounding Marco Gabbiadini took the short journey north to Roker Park for the sum of £80,000 and was to make an instant and long lasting impression helping Sunderland climb out of the third tier of English football under the stewardship of Denis Smith.
Gabbiadini had many weapons in his arsenal which combined made him one of the most prolific strikers in living memory. His pace had to been seen to be believed, covering the hallowed Roker Park turf in a flash and leaving defenders faltering in his wake. His positional awareness was second to none, the so called "Striker’s instinct", which helped him record an impressive average of almost a goal every other game in his six year stint on Wearside.
Much of Marco’s success came as part of a formidable strike partnership with everyone’s favourite ugly man Eric Gates. Nicknamed "G Force" the pair struck up a seemingly telepathic understanding with each other that would not be seen again until a certain Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips started tearing up the Premiership a decade later.
The pair were to figure in one of the most important Tyne/Wear derbies of all time in 1990 as the lads beat their bitter rivals to seal a place at Wembley.
In a fantastic Sunderland performance it was Gates and Gabbiadini that made the possession count with a goal apiece with Marco sealing victory with a trademark "G-Force" goal. The pair worked a lovely one-two on the edge of the area with Gabbiadini slotting home a perfectly weighted through ball from his partner in crime.
As the ball nestled in the back of the net, Marco wheeled away in jubilation; the game was as good as over. Our delusional neighbours knew it too and poured onto the pitch in an effort to have the game abandoned – who said sportsmanship was dead?
The Newcastle goal would probably have been the highlight of Marco's career in the North East, had it not been for an England B cap, at Roker, against Czechosolvakia. Performing admirably in a 2-0 win in 1990.
Marco was to move to Crystal Palace in October of 1991 for a fee of £1.8M only a week after notching up a six minute hat-trick against Charlton. Gabbiadini’s record while at the club speaks for itself: 185 games; 87 goals.
You can now find Marco running the award winning Bishops Guest House in York, where the halls are lined with shirts, boots and other memories from Marco's illustrious past. Worth a stay if only to see that!
Gabbiadini was more than just a striker, he was a hero for a whole generation of Sunderland fans and wrote himself into Sunderland folklore, a player who still to this day brings back so many different memories. England B, Newcastle goals (x2), Watford, Man City. The list just goes on and and on...
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