Pogliacomi hangs up his gloves

After 21 years as a professional goalkeeper Les Pogliacomi retired last weekend - a true champion of the game.

Put yourself in the shoes of Les Pogliacomi for a moment - or gloves if you will. After 21 years as a professional goalkeeper Pogliacomi retired from the game last weekend, following Campbelltown City-s loss to South Hobart in the NPL semi-finals. A family man. A journeyman. A footballer.

For a player whose supreme talent mirrored his longevity in the game it was a disappointing was to bow out. However the shot-stopper couldn-t be prouder of the season his club-s had and of a career that-s propelled him to England and back.

“Obviously we were bitterly disappointed to lose but things kind of conspired against us,” said Pogliacomi. “We have five boys in the Adelaide United youth team who-d had a tough week at training and another player who couldn-t make the trip to Hobart."

“Our coach had been to China to see his son (Daniel Mullen) play so the rest of us were a little underdone but full credit to South Hobart, they made the most of their opportunities and were the better team.

“I think Sydney United will find it tough to play down there in the grand final."

A 16-year-old boy from Sydney-s west, Pogliacomi started his career with Marconi Stallions, where he was understudy to Mark Schwarzer back in 1994. He went on to play for Wollongong Wolves and was the hero in their NSL grand final win of 2000, when he saved three penalties in the shoot-out to hand Wolves the title.

The former Young Socceroo moved to England a couple of years later and would go on to compile 200 games playing for Oldham Athletic and Blackpool in League One. He cherished every moment and got the opportunity to play against some of football-s elite.

“It was an unbelievable experience - people literally eat, sleep and breath football over there. It-s all over the media and is part of their psyche, you can-t help but get sucked into it.

“I got to play against Premier League opposition and was involved in two play-offs for promotion and two relegation battles with Oldham.

“A couple of highlights were when we beat a West Ham side that featured the likes of Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe and David James at Uptown Park in the League Cup.

“We also had a home win against a Manchester City side that had Shaun Wright-Phillips, Richard Dunne, Joey Barton and David James again in 2004, which was unbelievable.”

Pogliacomi would return home to play for Campbelltown City in the South Australia Premier League. His career turned full circle this season when the 37-year-old was twice the victor in penalty shoot-outs, en route to the club claiming its first title in 27 years.

“I-m definitely retired,” says Pogliacomi. “Our last game at home in front of friends and family was a dream come true so I-m happy to go out like that.

“Winning is special every time it happens - it doesn-t matter about the level. It-s about the camaraderie.

“I think the shoot-out wins definitely galvanised the team and brought us closer together. We-re a tight group of boys, which made winning more special.”

The season isn-t quite over for Pogliacomi and Campbelltown City, with the club set to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their formation at a gala function in a fortnight-s time. For Pogliacomi, who has already been named the club-s Premier League Players- Player and was awarded the Peter Nikolich Trophy for Premier League Goalkeeper of the Year, the night will be a chance to say a final goodbye.

“I was very humbled to receive those awards. One was voted by my teammates and the other by coaches in the league, so it-s great to get that recognition from people you respect.

“The club have been fantastic with everything they-ve done for me and at the end of the day you-re part of a team and you don-t want to let them down.

“I-d joked with the boys earlier in the season I-d only go on the end of the season trip if we won the title, so I-ve got that to look forward to as well.”