RASH RED COST ME MY BIG DAY
Bees’ Maltese winger misses Wembley
IF LUKE GAMBIN could turn back time, he’d do it in a heartbeat. Why? Because an injury-time red card against Scotland earlier this month has cost the Sutton-born winger the chance to play for Malta against England at Wembley in two weeks’ time.
Malta were already 5-1 down when the pint-sized Barnet flier flew into a tackle with Scotland’s Robert Snodgrass and received the first red card of his career.
“It wasn’t a malicious challenge – I’m not that type of player,” he said. “I was caught up in the moment and a bit of frustration crept in. It was a moment of madness.
“I didn’t get the ball and I’ve caught him – and the referee was right behind me.
“But even their players said they were surprised it was a straight red and Snodgrass was fine about it afterwards.” As he
trudged off, Gambin wasn’t thinking about what the red card meant. It was only when he was back in the changing rooms with his team-mates that the consequences of his actions dawned on him.
“Everyone came in and I realised I would miss the opportunity to play against England at Wembley,” he said.
“There was disappointment because I knew it would have been a great experience. However, it’s not the end of the world. “It was a great experience against Scotland and I’m looking forward to the up-andcoming games once I’ve served my ban. “I’m also going to do the best I can to get selected for the return game with England. Every player wants to play in the big games. I hope I can get back in.”
So, how does Gambin think the Malta side without him will fare against the country of his birth.
“It will be a difficult game,” said the 23-year-old, who qualifies for Malta through his grandparents on his father’s side. “Everyone knows the quality of England’s players so every one of our players has to be on their A game and stay focused.
“Against Scotland we went a man down, the concentration started to go and we got punished. We have to stay compact and together against England.” If Malta is Gambin’s jam, then Barnet is his bread and butter. He came through the ranks at the Bees and has played more than
100 league games, though almost half have come from the bench.
He’s hungry to make a bigger impact yet his displays on the flank have already been noted. Leyton Orient came in for him in the summer, but he decided to remain at The Hive. One reason is that the O’s represented a sideways step – they are also in League Two – and another is that Gambin has a genuine affinity for his current club.
He said: “I’ve been at Barnet for six years and enjoyed every minute. I travel in every day from Surrey and it’s a brilliant place to be.
“Orient put in a bid and I respectfully declined that. I’m happy at Barnet and with my decision to stay. Hopefully, I can have a good season and play more frequently.”
One of the positives about life at Barnet is working under maverick manager Martin Allen – and Gambin has an excellent rapport with him. “He was the first one to give me my break,” said Gambin. “I played for the youth team against the first team in an 11-aside practice game and he felt I stood out. We’ve built a relationship since then, and him coming back has helped me progress, especially as a winger. “People say wingers are inconsistent, but he’s helped me add consistency and focus in different parts of my game. He’s a great character, a great man-manager and gets the best out of players. “I love working with him and he wants to help you develop. As for the team, we’ve had a couple of new faces come in over the summer and we’ve made a good start. We have quality in our squad and hopefully can push on.”
RED MIST: Luke Gambin’s challenge for Malta, below, on Robert Snodgrass earned a sending off