Gabbidon and Whalley from the Wales on Sunday

Last updated : 19 May 2003 By Michael Morris

Gabbidon returns to Stadium where dreams came true.
If, by next Sunday afternoon's play-off final Queen's Park Rangers striker Paul Furlong still knows nothing about Danny Gabbidon, perhaps a call to one Alessandro del Piero might enlighten him.

Because the last time Cardiff City's Rolls Royce centre-half played at the Millennium Stadium, the Italian megastar knew all about Gabbidon's talents come the final whistle.

In fact, he was glad to see the back of him after failing to get the better of this "unknown" Division Two defender who was supposed to get found out against the cream of one of world football's superpowers.

"That night was about proving to myself that I could do it at that level," said Gabbidon in his usual modest, soft tones.

"I was from Division Two and up against del Piero and Vincenzo Montello, both class acts from Serie A.

"I surprised myself, though. I didn't know what was going to happen, but before the game I had a little word with myself.

"I was more used to watching these players on television but I said something like, Be confident - why not?"

Why not indeed? Ninety minutes or so later and it's fair to say the public perceptions of Gabbidon the player would never be the same.

Good job, though, that Gabbidon the person will surely never change - even if one day it is he who is the Serie A icon.

Shouting from the rooftops isn't his style. He's easy to talk to. He smiles. He is not evasive. He makes a journalist feel that he would talk across the garden fence to his next-door-neighbour in the same way as he would when tape recorders are switched on and notepads produced.

Yet this is no bloke next door. Gabbidon - and his form since returning from a four-and-a-half month lay-off merely emphasises the point - stands imperiously astride Cardiff City defensive operations as commander-in-chief.

It will be no different against QPR at the scene of his greatest performance, when Cardiff attempt to make that tumultuous leap into Division One.
Full story.

Whalley won't be a wally again.
WHETHER it's agony or ecstasy for Cardiff City next weekend, midfield playmaker Gareth Whalley will have been through it all before.

In 1993, he wore the dunce's hat as at Wembley when - still a mere teenager - his penalty shoot-out miss contributed to his old club Crewe losing a Division Three play-off final to York.

But in 1997 it was champagne and victory hijinks as he captained Crewe to a final hurdle victory over Luton underneath the Twin Towers.

Then, in 1999, he went one better when he helped Bradford to a final day 3-2 win against Wolves that secured automatic promotion.

That though doesn't mean the shivers have stopped when he thinks of those dark events 10 years ago.

"The keeper saved it and it was a devastating feeling to lose that day. I don't want to have to go through it again," he told Wales on Sunday.

"I was only 17 at the time but that didn't stop me from volunteering to take one. I have tried to shut it out of my mind since.

"They say losing in a semi-final is the worst thing of all. But in the play-offs to get beaten in the final is the ultimate agony because you just get the feeling that you are so close to achieving what you have strived for over a season.

"The win with Crewe in 1997 is my proudest moment in football so far, though.

"I was captain and climbed the steps to collect the trophy."

Of course, the Bluebirds are far from strangers to what play-offs are all about, having fallen at the penultimate hurdle last season.
Full story.