Gabbidon's best yet to come: Regis

Last updated : 13 March 2003 By Michael Morris

FORMER England star Cyrille Regis has backed Cardiff City centre-back Daniel Gabbidon to come back stronger than ever from his mystery back injury.

But football agent Regis, who looks after Gabbidon's affairs, is unable to shed any light on when the defender - sidelined for the last four months - will return to first-team action.

The former West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City ace insists the public has yet to see the best of the highly-rated Wales international.

Gabbidon suffered a back injury during the 3-2 defeat at Barnsley on November 9 and the 23-year-old has not kicked a ball for club or country since.

Earlier this week Wales manager Mark Hughes named the City player in his squad for the forthcoming Euro 2004 qualifiers against Azerbaijan (March 29) and Serbia-Montenegro (April 2).

But Hughes admitted the chance of Gabbidon being involved in the back-to-back matches - in Cardiff and Belgrade - was slim.

"Five months ago Daniel was on top of the world. He had played in the Welsh side that had just beaten Italy and Cardiff were doing well in the league," said Regis.

"Then came this back problem. Football is all about highs and lows and Daniel is experiencing a low at the moment. It's just as much a mental challenge for him as it is a physical one. I'm sure he will come through this ordeal with flying colours.

"I've no qualms that he will be as good as ever when he does come back. He's still only 23. He's four or five years away from reaching his peak. Talent doesn't go away. It doesn't just disappear.

"Many top players have come back after suffering a serious injury - look at Michael Owen and Alan Shearer. I remember when I had a spell when I was out injured for a few months. Daniel's injury is proving difficult to clear up but it's not a permanent problem." Gabbidon starred in Wales' first two Euro 2004 qualifiers - the 2-0 against Finland in Helsinki and the 2-1 win over Italy in Cardiff - before injury struck.

City still do not know when the former West Brom player will be ready

to return to first-team duty.

Bluebirds manager Lennie Lawrence hoped he might recover in time for the Azerbaijan clash but that now looks unlikely.

"It hasn't been an easy time for Daniel," Regis said. "It's difficult for a footballer when he doesn't travel with the rest of the squad and when he's not involved in all the banter.

"But he has retained a positive out-look and he's got his family around him. I'm sure he will be a stronger person after this experience."

Regis is unable to forecast when his prize asset will be back playing competitive football.

"We're all disappointed it hasn't been a quick recovery for him but the back is a sensitive area," said the striker, who won five England caps during the 1980s. "I don't know when Daniel will return. It's a case of everyone having to be patient. The medical people at

Cardiff will know when it's the right time for him to return.

"My role has just been one of moral support but I'm only one cog in the machinery. There's also Lennie Lawrence and Daniel's family in the background."

On Monday Hughes named Gabbidon in his 27-man squad for the back-to-back Euro 2004 qualifiers but conceded there was little chance of him being available.

"I would have hoped Danny would be back playing at this stage. The fact that he isn't means he will struggle to take part in our preparations, let alone figure in the staring lineup," said the Wales manager.

"I thought it was correct he was given an opportunity in case he made a significant improvement in a short space of time. But the way the injury has gone for the boy there's little chance of that happening."