In part two of our exclusive interview with Cardiff legend Danny Gabbidon, we talk to the former Wales international about his spell in the dugout and his post-playing career.
Missed part one? Catch up here.
Tell us a little bit more about you and Scott Young being in charge. How was that dynamic? Was there one of you in charge or did you approach it as equals?
It was definitely a joint partnership. We approached it as a team and having him next to me on the touchline certainly calmed my nerves!
Of course, when there’s two heads involved there’s more chance of disagreement, but that was never the case with us. It helped that we had a great relationship on and off the field and I couldn’t have imagined many other people I’d rather have been in that situation with.
We were generally on the same page with most things and all decisions were made together. Scott tended to be the link between the hierarchy and the playing staff, but we enjoyed bouncing ideas off each other and then coming to what we thought was the best conclusion. We also received a lot of assistance from other staff members who were fantastic at a tricky time for the club.
Would you manage again given the chance?
I’m not sure to be honest. It was without a doubt a fantastic experience for me, especially learning all of the different things that management entails. Believe me, it is a totally different world to playing football!
Given your playing career spanned nearly 20 years, how did injuries play a part? Would you say they took a toll on your career?
In some ways yes, but in other ways no. Injuries played both a positive and negative role I would say in hindsight.
Until I left Cardiff, I hadn’t suffered too many serious injuries and I had played a lot of football, which I suppose became part of the problem. I had a period at West Ham where everything came to a head and I was forced to step away from the game for a prolonged period of time.
Some of that was my fault because I just wanted to play football all the time, but some of it wasn’t down to me and came as a result of putting my trust in people that I probably shouldn’t have.
When I came back from my long injury lay-off, I don’t think I was ever the same player again. I certainly wasn’t consistently at the same level, but it also had a positive effect on me because it gave me some much-needed perspective and helped me appreciate the game more. I also gained a mental toughness that I never thought I would have and I developed an increased awareness of my body and what I could and couldn’t cope with.
Looking back, how do you view your second spell at Cardiff City and why do you think the Bluebirds found it so hard to adjust to life in the second tier under Russell Slade?
I suppose in summary, my second spell at the Bluebirds was something of a non-event apart from of course the spell as caretaker manager. I would have loved to have played some games, but that’s how football goes sometimes. I enjoyed being around the lads and working with some of the youngsters that were there at the time. They kept me going really.
The club was definitely in a bit of a coma really. It had just suffered the heartbreak of relegation from the Premier League after so many years of striving to be there. A new manager had just walked into the building and there was definitely a big squad with a lot of them suffering a hangover from the previous season.
I wouldn’t say Russell Slade was in my top 5 managers that I ever worked with, but equally, it was not an easy job trying to pick the team up from the previous season, who’d also had a dire start to the Championship.
It’s well documented that Slade had to trim the wage bill considerably and therefore did not have an awful lot of money to then spend himself, so he definitely had an awful lot to contend with. I think he definitely did the best job he could, but probably wasn’t ever going to be the guy that got Cardiff City back to where it belongs.
As you’ve seen just last season with the likes of Sunderland, relegation from the Premier League can have an awful lot of repercussions, a lot of which the supporters never see. It can take an awful lot of time for things to reset themselves, both on and off the field.
It looks like you’ve stayed in touch with some of the players from your first spell at Cardiff City. Are you still close to James Collins, Robert Earnshaw and some of the other lads?
Definitely. James Collins, Robert Earnshaw and Joe Ledley are some of my main guys, but honestly, we don’t speak too often these days. James and Joe are still playing regularly and I don’t want to bother them too much. With Earnie being in America, he can be a hard man to pin down.
I speak to some of the other lads here and there. Scott Young of course and one or two of the others on social media, but when you retire from playing and leave that football bubble as I have, it can be a strange feeling.
You almost feel as if you don’t relate as much anymore to your mates that are still playing and you meet an awful lot of people when you’re playing, but when you hang up your boots, you’re not always left with too many people you can honestly call true friends.
I’m lucky because with Earnie, Ginger Pele and Ledley, we’ve always stayed close and looked out for each other, both on and off the field.
I bet a night out with those three must be something to behold?!
Put it this way, it’s eventful that’s for sure!
If you were to name your favourite managers, who would they be and why?
I very much enjoyed working under Alan Cork and Lennie Lawrence. Both were totally different personalities, but both were very good with the players.
I probably had my best season as a player under Alan Pardew and learnt a lot from him. That’s probably when I was at my best as a defender.
Lastly, Tony Pulis was very good in my time at Crystal Palace. He had exceptional man management and was brilliant at getting the best out of the players that he had during the period he was there.
How do you view the current Cardiff squad’s chances of succeeding in the Premier League?
I have been very impressed by the signings they’ve made so far. Some real intent has been shown not to mention pace, which is massive in the modern game. If they can make a few more signings in important areas, they will have a fantastic squad in place.
They have an excellent chance of staying up this season, they can be as expectant of staying up as most of the teams outside of the top six or eight.
Finally, what are your plans going forward?
Well I now do quote lot of work on the media side of the game, primarily on radio and some television here and there. I really enjoy talking about the game, but of course nothing will ever replace playing!
I also do a lot of work alongside my agent in a mentoring role to some of the young players that we look after. The game has changed so much since I started out and I think it’s very important that agencies show as much care in nurturing the personality of the players as they do the footballing talent.
There are far more distractions and pitfalls that can affect these young players in a negative way, so any assistance or advice I can offer is usually welcomed by the lads who are desperate to make it in the game. It can be hard for young players to focus these days on what’s most important and that’s the football.
As to the future, I honestly don’t know as I am enjoying what I am doing alongside being a father to my two year old son. If I’m honest, I don’t have a plan in place. The plan was always to play football and now I’ve done that, anything is possible.
I suppose it’s as the saying goes; “time puts everybody in the right place.”