Grand things in store for Gibbs

It may have taken almost three years between his first and second A-League appearances, but 20-year-old target man Joey Gibbs can at last move on.

Finally, Joey Gibbs is no longer a trivia question.

It may have taken almost three years between his first and second A-League appearances, but the 20-year-old target man can at last move on.

No more being asked if he's the same Joey Gibbs who debuted in a grand final and then disappeared as quickly as he arrived.

Round ball anoraks will tell you Gibbs played the final four minutes of extra time off the bench in the 2009/10 decider against Melbourne Victory and then watched on as the Sky Blues clinched the title on penalties.

He was then dispatched into football's ether before returning last Saturday night in a Western Sydney Wanderers strip for another milestone moment in Australian football - the club's first Hyundai A-League win.

The lad's got a sense of occasion.

"At the very least, I've now got two appearances to my name," Gibbs said with a laugh following the Wanderers' 1-0 win over champions Brisbane.

"People are pretty surprised when you tell them you started in a grand final and then didn't play another game for a couple of years.

"There are a few of the boys at the Wanderers who are ex-Sydney FC players so they've been reminding me about it.

"It's pretty funny looking back at it but I'm glad to get past one."

The truth is Gibbs' career didn't stall once the champagne went flat at the Sky Blues.

Like a door-to-door salesman, he packed his boots and knocked on doors here and overseas in the hope of gaining regular first-team football.

First stop was a return to his former home at NSW Premier League club Manly United.

It was followed by a stint at Belgian third division outfit Olympic Charleroi; a journey that proved nothing short of a disaster after the club ran out of cash.

Not one to kick stones, a broke but not broken Gibbs returned to Australia and linked with Marconi back in the NSW Premier League.

Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward.

Used as an out-and-out striker, the angular Gibbs scored 12 goals in 25 appearances - and the phone started lighting up.

The Wanderers showed interest and then hometown club, the Central Coast Mariners, paid a visit.

And if Mariners assistant coach Phil Moss had his way, he'd be watching the re-birth of Gibbs' career from much closer quarters.

Moss has known Gibbs since the youngster arrived at Cromer Park as a teenager looking for a start in Manly-Warringah's junior rep program.

He's kept tabs on him ever since and was desperate to add him to the Mariners' roster this season.

But Central Coast could only offer a youth contract - a deal the Wanderers saw and raised to a full-time Hyundai A-League gig.

"We wanted him and 'Arnie' (Graham Arnold) was keen but we just couldn't match the dollars," Moss said.

"Joey's always had the right package. He's a great kid with a great attitude and has tremendous ability and awareness on the pitch.

"He was very hungry to make it as a professional footballer but, if ever there was a constructive criticism of Joey's game, it was about the end product.

"He's a very tidy player, very busy with good awareness but it was his final pass or his goal scoring ability that let him down.

"But once it came together I had no doubt that he was going to be seen in the A-League again and it's no surprise to me that he's back.

"Physically he can handle it and he will only get better the more games he plays."

Gibbs agrees that he needs more game time but he's not taking anything for granted.

One game at a time is an old football cliche but entirely appropriate when 952 days passed between your first and second appearance.

"It was good to get an opportunity. It was a great experience," Gibbs said of his Wanderers' debut.

"I thought I went alright and we had a win so I'm pretty happy.

"I'm enjoying being around a full-time environment and my game is improving already as a result."

Good things come to those who wait, and wait.