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On This Day: 20 Jan 1968 – Sunderland hero Marco Gabbiadini is born!

He’s the iconic player of the late 80s and early 90s – a dynamic striker who brought hope after a few seasons of adversity.

Marco Gabbiadini Photo by Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images

I’ve written before about Marco. But, you never grow tired of writing about your heroes, do you?

And, for me, Marco just wasn’t any hero, he was my first hero. He was one of the first players I consciously remember joining the club. He was young, he was energetic. He had attitude. And he was a bloody good player.

As a kid, he was the player you wanted to watch. He was the player you wanted to be. For people who didn’t have the fortune of watching him play, he was electric. He never gave defenders a moment’s peace. His explosive pace could take him away from opponents in an instant. He was tough, he never shied away from a challenge. He was exciting; the expectant roar that emanated from the Fulwell End whenever he got the ball was something to behold.

And he could score. Boy, he could score. He was selfish, just as all good strikers are; he’d shoot from almost anywhere. And the selfishness paid off in spades.

Marco Gabbiadini Scores
Marco powers home a header
Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images

As a 19-year-old, he showed no fear – he set the 1987-88 Division Three season alight shortly after his arrival, and was one of the key reasons – along with the likes of Denis Smith and Viv Busby, Armstrong, Owers and Benno – why we gained two promotions in three seasons.

He was a nice fella too – I remember getting his autograph on countless occasions outside the Main Stand before home games at Roker. I had my photo taken with him when he was making a guest appearance at a garage in Stanley. In the late ’80s most car showrooms had a footballer there a couple of times a year. Have a chat, look around – gaze in awe at your hero, stood next to a new Austin Metro.

Halcyon days.

The day the Northern Echo dropped through our door before I left for the school bus, conveying the news Marco had been sold to Palace, I’m not ashamed to admit I cried. Aged 23, he should have stayed with us for many more seasons. I remember a Sunderland supporting mate of mine at the bus stop that morning. “Best thing for us that, we can get a few new players in,” he said. I shook my head; unconvinced.

He was wrong.

Happy birthday Marco. Ole, ole, ole.