Danny Gabbidon enjoyed a long career with over 400 appearances for Cardiff, West Ham, QPR and Crystal Palace, as well as winning 49 caps for Wales. In an exclusive interview with BetStars, the former defender previews Cardiff’s FA Cup tie with Manchester City and reflects on the recent fortunes of some of his previous teams.


BetStars: Is the draw of playing for the Welsh clubs (Cardiff and Swansea) more attractive for a Welsh player?

DG: Yeah I think it can be. Of course if you are from those areas, if you’re from Cardiff or Swansea, then that draw probably is bigger to play for your hometown club. I think more than anything, it can depend on where you are and what point you’re at as a player in your career. I look at my own career and as a 19 or 20-year-old I moved back to Cardiff City, my home club from West Bromwich Albion. One, because I wanted to play first-team football week in, week out but also there was a lure of playing for your hometown club and being closer to your family and stuff like that. That was great for me.

But then it got to a point where I thought I had out-grown that club, I wanted to progress and play at a high level and I ended up leaving and moving to the Premier League. And then at the back-end of my career I actually went back to Cardiff which was fantastic to come back to my hometown club and have a season there before I retired. So I think it does depend on what point you’re at in your career but certainly the lure of playing for your hometown club is a massive thing and it’s something that influences a lot of Welsh players in particular.

You were Cardiff’s caretaker manager for a short period in 2014, but how would getting the full-time job rate on your list of achievements?

DG: I’m not sure going forward in the future whether I want to be a football manager or not. I’m a little bit 50/50 with that decision. That was certainly an honour being caretaker manager, it’s something that I didn’t expect to happen. But it was certainly a fantastic experience and it was a great eye opener for me to see the other side of things. It’s obviously very different to being a player. It’s something that no one can take away from me, to say that I managed a team that is very close to my heart, my local side. It’s something I never thought I would do and looking back now it’s a great thing to have on your CV and a great memory but at the time it was very nerve-wracking and something that I didn’t expect to happen so that’s held me in good stead for the future if I do want to go into management in the future. I know a little bit about it now and what it entails but also you see the bad side of it as well so I’m not too sure yet.

Who was the best player you played with whilst at Cardiff?

DG: It’s a difficult one because there were a number of good players I was lucky enough to play with. To name a couple; Graeme Kavanagh was a fantastic player, a fantastic captain in his time at the club. Joe Ledley is someone who I’m very good friends with as well and as a young lad coming through he was excellent. James Collins was another young lad coming through at that time and we both moved on from there to West Ham and he was a fantastic player as well.

But I would probably have to say Robert Earnshaw, he was a tremendous player and goal scorer and it was fantastic to have the opportunity to play alongside him week-in, week-out and watching some of the goals that he used to score. He would score any kind of goal and there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do – right foot, left foot, headers, individual goals and the tap-ins that he would score. He was a huge fan favourite. To have the opportunity to play alongside him and see him perform every week was brilliant and we’re still good friends as well. So I would have to say Robert Earnshaw was the best I played with.

Do you think Cardiff will be promoted this year?

DG: I think they’ve got a very good chance. They’ve put themselves in a very good position. They’ve had a good first half to the season, obviously just coming off the back of a dip in form. But I think they’ve got a very good chance. They’ve got a good squad, they’ve obviously got a very good manager, an experienced manager who’s been there and done it – he has experienced promotion and what it takes.

The pressure is going to be on them in the second half of the season, they are going to be expected to go out there and pick up where he was earlier in the first half of the season. They were seen as underdogs and not expected to be where they are but I think with the success that they’ve had it’s a different kind of pressure on the players now and they’re not going to be seen as underdogs anymore. They’re going to be seen as favourites going into a lot of games and it’s all about how they handle that expectation. It’s an added pressure but they’ve certainly got all the ingredients – they’ve got the team spirit, they’ve got the players, they’ve got a good manager there. So I think they’ve got a very good chance and that second place certainly is up for grabs at the minute and first place isn’t out of the question.

Where do they need to strengthen in the transfer window?

DG: They’ve already done a bit of strengthening, certainly the midfield area has been a problem for them in recent weeks. Their captain Aron Gunnarsson has been out for a couple of months now and he’s a big miss. You can’t underestimate the job that he does in that central midfield area alongside Joe Ralls. He’s been a big, big miss and Cardiff haven’t been the same in his absence. So I think the midfield area has to be strengthened and Neil Warnock has done that, he’s brought Marko Grujic in on loan from Liverpool who I think will be a good signing.

I also think they probably do need to bring in a striker if they can before the window closes. They’ve scored a fair amount of goals but probably not enough. They need a player to catch fire in the second half of the season. If Junior Hoilett or Kenneth Zohore can get into double figures in the second half of the season they will probably be there or thereabouts. I just think with Danny Ward being injured for the rest of the season, he probably does need another striker to come in to supplement what they’ve got there already. You’ve got the midfielder in and I would expect to see a striker come in before the end of the window.

Cardiff face runaway Premier League leaders Man City in the FA Cup this weekend. What do Cardiff need to do to overcome them? Can you see them getting anything out of that game?

DG: It’s going to be a difficult, difficult game for Cardiff City. Obviously Man City are flying high at the top of the Premier League, they’re playing fantastic football and scoring goals for fun. I think it’s more about what Man City do for Cardiff to get a result. If Man City field a weakened side, if they’re not taking the competition as seriously because of what’s going on in the Premier League and if their players are playing at 50% then that makes the game a bit more of a leveller and Cardiff City will have an opportunity.

They can cause Man City trouble from set-pieces. Cardiff are a big, physical team and they do ask questions of you defensively, they put a lot of balls into the box, long balls, long throws into the box. If there is a weakness in Man City’s team it is the physical side of the game, defending set-pieces because they’re not the biggest of sides and that’s certainly an area that I’m sure Warnock will look at. Of course they have the advantage of being at home. Hopefully we get a decent crowd in the Cardiff City Stadium who will get right behind them and you just never know. In a one-off tie, anything is possible if they can get the crowd behind them and they perform well – they could get a result.

West Ham

West Ham play Wigan Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Cup this weekend. Do you think David Moyes will field a strong team or does the league take precedence?

DG: I don’t think he’s going to be able to field the strongest team because West Ham have a fair few injuries to their squad. I think the main reason David Moyes was brought to West Ham was to keep them in the Premier League. Obviously, they were performing pretty badly under Slaven Bilic, so the league will take precedence. Yes, they would like to have a good cup run but if they were to go out I don’t think it would be a disaster for West Ham because it is all about Premiership survival for them.

Do you think the FA Cup still holds the same importance for players?

DG: Unfortunately, no I don’t think it does for Premier League players. If you look further down the leagues and at younger players, you would say yes. It is an opportunity to test yourself against better players and prove that you could play in that kind of company. Unfortunately, you’re going to see Premier League managers not taking the competition as seriously as they should. But the magic is still there for the lower league teams because they have the opportunity to cause a giant killing. The FA Cup tends to become more important to the biggest sides if they progress to the latter stages.

Where do West Ham need to strengthen in the transfer window?

DG: They have a good squad already, but they need a defensive midfielder. You look at the midfielders in their squad and that is where there is an imbalance – they don’t really have a strong player who can sit in front of the defence to do that kind of dirty work and put out fires that stop attacks occurring.

Also possibly another striker to come in with Andy Carroll now being injured for a period of time and Javier Hernandez not really playing in the first eleven. Arnautovic has kind of being doing that job at the minute, but he’s not an out-and-out striker albeit doing it really well and scoring goals.

A post shared by BetStars (@betstars) on

West Ham have been linked with signing Jonjo Shelvey and Samir Nasri, what would you make of those signings?

DG: I don’t think they’re the kind of players that West Ham need. Yes, they’re both good players but I would just question their characters more than their abilities as players. I think adding both or either of them would affect the dynamics of the dressing room. Certainly with the position that West Ham are in at the minute, they need strong characters to push them up the league and those two players have shown throughout their career that they don’t always have the best of character. I’d be surprised if I saw either of those deals go through.

Manuel Lanzini will be out for a month with injury, how much will West Ham miss him? Do you think this could affect their survival hopes?

DG: I don’t think it will affect their survival hopes. They have more than enough to finish in a comfortable position in the Premier League. Lanzini is their talisman, the guy that has the creativity to open teams up and do something special. West Ham don’t really have another player like him in that position, so he will be a big miss. But with the way that David Moyes plays, they’ve become a lot more difficult to beat so even without Lanzini in the team. Lanzini and Arnautovic have been starting to form a decent partnership together in recent weeks, so hopefully it does not affect Arnautovic’s form.

Andy Carroll has been sidelined for three months, what do you think of him as a player? Were you surprised at Chelsea’s interest in signing him?

DG: Andy Carroll is a very good player on his day, one of the best strikers in the Premier League. He’s a dying breed of striker – the big, physical target man – similar to what I played against during my career and I always found it difficult to play against. The biggest issue for him has been his injury problems and trying to keep him fit, week in, week out.

I was a little bit surprised to see the link with Chelsea – not because he’s not a good player, more his injury issues really. I didn’t really see him fitting Chelsea and how they like to play. Maybe Antonio Conte is looking for something totally different and to have a different option for maybe when games are not going how he wants them to.

Javier Hernandez has been linked with a move away – do you think they should keep hold of him?

DG: Yes, he’s a fantastic option to have from the bench. There was great optimism from the West Ham fans at the start of the season when he was signed, but they’ve struggled to play to his strengths. He’s found himself on the bench in recent weeks since David Moyes has come to the club. With Andy Carroll now injured, I think it’s more important now to keep hold of him. It’s vitally important that they keep hold of their better players.

What have you made of the West Ham defence this season?

DG: I think it’s got better with David Moyes coming to the club. Certainly under Slaven Bilic it was nowhere near good enough, conceding too many goals, individual errors and not really defending as a unit. Moyes has gone with that three at the back system and he’s played Creswell as a left-sided centre-back which surprised everyone really. I didn’t think he could play that position but he’s gone in there and performed really well. They’ve started to keep clean sheets and got some really good results against some of the biggest teams. He deserves credit for the work on the training ground.

What was your most memorable moment playing for the Hammers?

DG: I’d probably have to say the first season that I signed for the club. We were able to get to an FA Cup final and we had a really good finish in the Premier League, we qualified for Europe. On a personal note I was able to win the Hammer of the Year award. I was consistent with my performances that I put in and it was my first season playing in the Premier League. I was lucky enough to play in a very good side, a young team that were all really hungry and wanted to prove ourselves.

What do you think was the reason for Slaven Bilic’s downfall at West Ham? Did you agree with the decision to sack him?

DG: A change had to be made. You were looking at Slaven Bilic on the sidelines and he looked like a broken man. He looked like someone who no longer had the answers to get results for his team. I think he had plenty of time given to him by West Ham. It’s unfortunate. The first season he came to the club I thought he did very well. The players were playing for him, they had a style of play which was exciting. But for whatever reason, the second and third season weren’t as good. He had a lot of off-the-field issues to deal with, problems with players but I think a lack of confidence from up above from the owners as well. I think that distracted him a little bit from what his job was really – to manage the players, to keep on top of the players and make sure that they’re performing week-in, week-out. If you’re not getting things right consistently then you’re going to be shown the door and unfortunately that’s what happened. They’ve moved on now and David Moyes is doing a decent job.

What did you make of the appointment of David Moyes? How do you think he is doing? Should he be West Ham manager next season?

DG: I was a little bit surprised at the appointment but the more time I had to think about it, it started to make more sense to me. He’s come in and done a really good job. He was exactly what West Ham needed at the time – someone to come in and organise them, make them a lot more difficult to beat, get the players working hard for each other and come in and be authoritative and let the players know exactly what’s required when they go out on the pitch. All he can do is keep winning games of football. There’s still a long way to go and a lot of points to play for but if he can get a good finish and possibly a good cup run then I think that will be enough to keep him in the job going forward. It’s great to see the positivity that he’s shown since taking over the job because I think that was probably his biggest downfall in the Sunderland role. He was very negative and I think he has kind of learned from his mistakes.

Crystal Palace

With Scott Dann ruled out for the season through injury, do you think your former West Ham colleague James Tomkins is capable of leading the defence? What are his best qualities?

DG: He’s going to have to step up, he’s the only fit, recognised centre-half now at the club and Sakho is still out injured so Roy Hodgson’s going to be looking for him to lead that backline. He’s got plenty of Premier League experience. I played with him at West Ham so I know him very well. He’s a good all-round centre-back, he hasn’t got too many weaknesses in his game really. Probably his only weakness is picking up niggly injuries, he does tend to get them which hampers his progress a bit with regards to playing consistently, week-in, week-out and building up a run of form. Palace are clawing their way up the league so they’re not in danger. It’s really important that he is marshalling that backline and helping the team to keep clean sheets.

Does Wilfried Zaha’s rise surprise you at all? How good was he when you played together?

DG: No, not at all. I think with Wilfried Zaha, everything was always in his mind really, it was a case of how good he wanted to be. The season that I came to Crystal Palace was the season really where it all came together for him. He was producing consistent performances and he helped Crystal Palace get into the Premier League and obviously got his big move to Manchester United. As we know it didn’t work out for whatever reasons but I think he’s shown great maturity in the last two or three seasons. His game is improving week on week. You can see he’s understanding what’s required a lot more. He’s added goals and assists to his game. The last two seasons he’s been head and shoulders above anyone else in a Palace shirt. He has carried that Palace team in the last couple of seasons. He’s always had that natural ability. He’s matured. He’s worked on the mental side and realised himself what a fantastic player he can be if he applies himself.

Would you back Wayne Hennessey as Crystal Palace’s number one keeper?

DG: I know Wayne very well, having played alongside him in the Wales set-up. He’s the best goalkeeper at the club. It’s not been easy for him, certainly coming in to the club and replacing a legend in Julian Speroni was always going to be difficult. I don’t think all the fans have taken to him in that time, but he’s a fantastic person to have in the dressing room. I think he’s taken some unfair stick. But he’s a strong character, he’s got himself back in the team in recent weeks and I fully expect him to keep hold of that No1 shirt between now and the end of the season.

What are your memories of the play-off final against Watford in 2013?

DG: All great memories. It was a fantastic day all round. To get promotion was a fantastic feeling. Play-off finals are always nervy games, nobody wants to make a mistake. I remember the build-up, the couple of days leading up to the game, everything. The preparation was fantastic, all the players were relaxed and confident. The game plan just went really well on the day, we went into the game as underdogs and not many people expected us to win the game with the season that Watford had and the players that they had. Troy Deeney had scored lots of goals throughout the season. But we were quietly confident and I just remember the atmosphere at Wembley was fantastic, it was the first time I had played the new Wembley. The Palace fans were incredible.

What do you think of Roy Hodgson as a fit for Crystal Palace?

DG: He’s the perfect fit. Looking at Crystal Palace and Frank de Boer, they were conceding a lot of goals. The manager was trying to get them to play a style of football which the players were not used to. It wasn’t like they had bad players there, they were just being asked to do the wrong things. Roy Hodgson coming in was exactly what they needed, someone who could keep things simple and make them a lot more difficult to beat. I think he was lucky in the fact that Wilfried Zaha was coming back from an injury when he came in to the club, so he had that attacking threat.

All the players seem to know their job now. They have good players there with the likes of Zaha, Benteke, Townsend and Cabaye, but they just weren’t working hard enough and weren’t organised. It’s not been rocket science. He’s instilled some confidence into the players and they’ve been picking up results on the back of that. I think he’s done a fantastic job.


What are your thoughts on the appointment of Ryan Giggs as head coach? Was it the right decision to pick him ahead of Craig Bellamy?

DG: From the FAW point of view, Ryan Giggs probably ticks most of the boxes I would say. But time will tell, obviously he’s an inexperienced manager as were all the candidates that were interviewed for the job so I think we’re kind of going into the unknown a little bit – we really don’t know how he’s going to do until he gets onto the training field and when those games come and we’ll see how he takes to the job.

What was Ryan Giggs like to play under as a captain?

DG: Giggsy is pretty quiet to be fair. He’s one of those players that probably led more with his performances really. You always felt if he was on the field of play you had a chance to win. He was a fantastic player, a world-class player. At times it was just give Ryan Giggs the ball and see if he can make something happen. You always had extra confidence in yourself if he was out there alongside you in that first XI because he’s such a fantastic player. It was an honour to be able to play alongside him, train alongside him as much as I did and he always made me play better knowing that he was there alongside me, he used to raise my game.

What will he bring to the squad as manager?

DG: Hopefully he [Giggs] can bring a bit more attacking intent. Certainly he was one of the best attacking players to have ever played the game so you kind of hope maybe he can bring that side of things to the Wales team. If I look at the Wales squad and where they can improve moving forwards, I do think it’s the attacking side of the game, trying to control games more with possession.

Certainly coming up against teams that sit deep, Wales have had trouble recently in trying to break teams down and certainly in the absence of Gareth Bale. It’s about trying to score more goals, trying to find new ways, new ideas going forward and trying to attack things maybe a little bit more and not rely so much on the individual brilliance of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

What do you think they need to improve on to qualify for future tournaments?

DG: I think the mentality side of things needs to improve and I certainly think that’s where Ryan Giggs can help. He’s played in huge, huge games as a player, there’s nothing really that he hasn’t done or seen as a player. So I think having that mentality come in, the players can feed off that.

If the team wants to improve and wants to get better then I think they need to get better at controlling games and dominate possession of the football a bit better, keep the ball a bit more. And maybe just take the handbrake off a little bit, looking to try and get a few more bodies forward into the box and score one or two more goals if they can. I know it’s easier said than done but I think Giggsy will be that kind of manager of will want to attack and take the games to the opposition. I think that will suit Wales with the kind of players that they’ve got so we’ll just have to wait and see.

What is your response to claims that Wales are a one-man team?

DG: It’s a ridiculous comment to make. You can half understand that because Wales do have one of the best players in the world and any team would be reliant on him if they had Gareth Bale in their side. He is the guy that the rest of the squad look up to. He is the guy that gets the goals and that’s understandable because he’s such a fantastic player. But I think if you look at the squad as a whole, there are some fantastic players in that squad, not just him.

If you look at the defensive record that Wales have all the way through the Euro qualifiers, it was very good. If you look at the defensive record in the tournament itself it was fantastic, we were one of the top goal scorers and had one of the best defences in the tournament. So I think that proves that Wales is not just a one-man team. Yes Gareth Bale is very important as you would expect but he can’t do it all on his own. The defence has been just as important as Gareth Bale going forward.

Wales’ main strength is the team spirit, it is everybody working together and if you were to ask Gareth Bale the same question I’m sure he would give you exactly the same answer. It is a little bit annoying to hear that ‘one-man team’ tag, Wales can’t seem to shake that off but I think the proof is in the pudding.

Do you think Gareth Bale should leave Real Madrid for a return to the Premier League?

DG: Why does he need to leave? It’s been a fantastic move for him, he’s won trophies, he’s won the Champions Leagues three times now. He’s just signed a new contract, why would he want to leave? He’s playing with some of the best players in the world, creating history season after season. I don’t see why he would want to change that, why you would want to leave for any other club?

I think with him signing a new contract at Real Madrid, I think he’s looking to stay there to finish his career . I’m sure he’s looking at Ronaldo, who is not sure how long he’s going to be at the club and if Ronaldo wants to leave, I think Gareth Bale will take up the mantle of being the main man there and that’s something that he would thrive off.

He’s 28 years of age and it still feels like there are many more trophies to be won at Real Madrid and maybe toward the back end of his career he might come back to the Premier League but at the minute I think he’s really happy and it still feels like there’s a lot to achieve there.

You played under Mark Hughes at QPR and for Wales. Do you think he will get another job in the Premier League? What was he like as a manager?

DG: I think he will get another job in the Premier League. He’s an experienced manager, he’s managed in the Premier League for a long time so he will certainly see that as his level. I don’t see him dropping down a level to take a job or possibly maybe going abroad. I think he will bide his time and probably enjoy his time off or wait for another Premier League job to become available.

My first experience of his management was as a youngster being brought in to the Wales squad when he was manager there. I was really impressed as a youngster seeing what he did there and the job he did for the national team. Of course managing the national team is very different to working day-to-day at a football club. And then I got the opportunity to work with him a bit later in my career at QPR and was probably a little bit different there, I saw a different side to him as a manager.

I thought he came into QPR and did a good job to keep QPR in the Premier League in that first season because it was a difficult job – there were a lot of characters in that dressing room who weren’t always easy to manage. But I think after that first season then he found it difficult and he tried to take the club to the next level. I think some of his recruitment was poor, some of his man-management of players was not great as well. But I think on the whole he is a decent manager, you don’t manage in the Premier League for that period of time if you’re not a good manager. So I don’t expect him to be out of work for too long.

Author Image

Next Story