Joey Gibbs: The former NPL star living the dream in Iceland

Written by: Sha Nen

From the very first time Joey Gibbs stepped on to a football pitch as a professional, his career has been far from by the numbers.

On March 20th 2010, Joey Gibbs only 18 at the time found himself as a surprise inclusion on the bench for the biggest game of the season, the 2009/2010 A-League Grand Final between Sydney FC and their then biggest rivals Melbourne Victory.

With the game still level at 1-1 deep into extra time Sydney FC manager Vitezslav Lavicka called upon Gibbs to make his professional debut replacing Alex Brosque in front of almost 50,000 fans, at the time making him the youngest player to play in an A-League Grand Final.

Sydney FC would go on to win the match 4-2 on penalties.

“This is a very special and unique memory for me. I remember being thrilled to be there and included in a squad which was full of established and high-quality players. I remember the whole trip fondly, including my initiation song at the team dinner the night before as well as the celebrations afterwards. I think I sang “Milkshake” by Kelis that night”

Gibbs would leave Sydney FC shortly after, playing for Olympic Charleroi in the Belgian Third division B and a short lived stay between two stints at his former club Manly United in the NSW Premier League.

It was after his move to fellow NSW Premier League club Marconi Stallions where Gibbs started to really shine, being selected in the team of the season and helping Marconi to win the Australian state league Grand Final.

On the back of this he would go on trial in 2012 with new A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers, playing in the clubs first ever official game.

It wouldn’t take Gibbs long to show his class, scoring 4 goals in one half in this match and he was rewarded for his hot form with a 1 year contract.

Gibbs was a semi-regular and a fan favourite in a Wanderers squad who to the surprise of many started their A-League journey like a house on fire, playing breath taking football and taking the competition by storm, Finishing the season 1st on the ladder and making it to the Grand Final, capturing the hearts of football fans across the country with the atmosphere, culture and passion around the new club.

Joey Gibbs during his time with the Western Sydney Wanderers in 2012 Source: Getty Images

It was a culture which was based around hard work and high quality. I remember training at very high intensities during that pre-season and season and we reaped the rewards. It was a time in which I learnt a lot as a professional footballer, I learnt about what type of training is best for me and the importance of professionalism. It is another memory I look back on fondly also a season which I experienced and learnt a lot on and off the field.”

After being released by Western Sydney in 2013, Gibbs had short stints with fellow A-League club Newcastle Jets and APIA Leichardt in the NPL before moving overseas to Hong Kong outfit Tai Po, but after only 7 apps and 1 goal in a disappointing stint, he moved back to Australia in 2015 signing with NPL side Blacktown City, where he would spend 5 years.

I don’t believe in regretting things, I think even the worst experiences you can learn from and bring the lessons into the next experience. This is exactly what I think HK did for my current experience now in Iceland. As this move maybe wasn’t the best for me as a footballer it made me a lot more picky when it came to another move overseas. However looking back on HK it is a time of my life which I enjoyed and have many nice memories of.”

During his stint at Blacktown City, Gibbs played consistently, finding the back of the net and often being named in the NPL team of the week.

He was quickly establishing himself as one of the best and most consistent strikers in the NPL as well as putting in good performances for the club in the FFA Cup.

Joey Gibbs after scoring a brace in the 2017 FFA Cup for Blacktown Source: Getty Images

“I love playing football and I enjoyed my time at Blacktown. I played with some very good players and playing in the NPL allows you to build yourself in other ways such as through work and study. I always struggled with the lack of reward which i think affects the competition. I mean this in regards to no opportunity for promotion which is so rare in football and is something I always struggled with. I know Australia has its issues with implementing this but from a playe’rs point of view it is harmful to your development knowing you can’t gain promotion as a team but only as an individual.”

In early 2020 after a successful period with Blacktown, Gibbs would make the strangest move of his career to date, moving from Blacktown to sign for Keflavík in Iceland, who despite being relegated in 2018 are one of Iceland’s biggest and most historic club.

It came about very quickly, I think it was all completed with a week and a half. I spoke to the coach who impressed me in the way he wanted to play, the clubs ambition and their plan for me.”

Despite an almost immediate delay due to COVID-19, Once football resumed Gibbs found the best form of his career, settling in quickly becoming one of the top players in the league and scoring better than a goal a game. (At the time of writing)

 I think the way in which we play suits me. The type of chances I get are the ones which I prefer. I have also integrated quickly and came to this country with a desire to assimilate and enjoy their culture. I think this helps and is something the locals respect when a foreigner is like this.”

With the form and consistency he has shown so far in Iceland, its safe to say the risk of moving to Iceland has worked out and it would be hard not to see Gibbs career hitting new heights in the future and going on to bigger things.

I am enjoying myself a lot over here and I feel comfortable in Europe. I’m really enjoying living in a football culture. It’s always hard to say what the future may hold as the A league is a good level of football, however I have learnt to take one day at a time especially in football.”

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