30 June ~ Richard Garcia has been a steady if often peripheral performer in three seasons with Hull City. Now, however, he has earned a place in club folklore. Having only had a handful of internationals over several generations (none of whom, even now, has been a serving England players) we had never been represented in a World Cup finals. Until Garcia got called up for Australia.
A product of the West Ham United academy who didn't match the Cole and Carrick standard, Garcia was not noticed by his national team at all until he was promoted back to the Premier League with the Tigers, even though he played better football in the Championship, with Colchester as well as us, than he ever managed at the top level. He was in the first available Australia squad after promotion, as if the coach had promised him international honours the moment he got there.
In two Premier League seasons Garcia scored just one goal, and that was in only the second-ever game, at Blackburn in August 2008. But through all this, he stayed in the Australia squad and got his place in their 23, even though he missed the last half dozen games of the relegation season with injury.
His selection was a blessed relief as the Tigers saw a number of their potential World Cup performers drop like flies in the six months leading up to the summer. Kamel Ghilas and Seyi Olofinjana, Algerian and Nigerian respectively, were signed by Phil Brown in the close season but Ghilas didn't feature much and didn't get another call up for Algeria after being omitted from their Africa Cup of Nations squad. Olofinjana never found the right role for himself but it was still a surprise when he was left out of Nigeria's final 23 at the last moment.
Then there were the four Irishmen – Kevin Kilbane, Stephen Hunt, Paul McShane and Caleb Folan – some or all of whom would have been in South Africa but for Thierry Henry. Jozy Altidore was signed on loan from Villarreal but, despite a first-refusal clause, his valuation was way beyond our resources and the non-scoring but somehow endearing US centre-forward was not Hull City player by the time he was confirmed in Bob Bradley's squad.
So that left us with Garcia. He even played – quite well, as it happens, in the context of the overall Socceroos display – in the opening 4-0 hammering by Germany, and got the last eight minutes of the defeat of Serbia that eliminated Australia on goal difference. He will never be one of our most memorable players, especially as it was within such a high-profile period, but he is in the record books.
For those of us who have always seen our club as a shelter for fallen internationals or – very occasionally – a starting point for future stars (well, Roy Carroll), this has come as a big relief. Now we need to find someone good enough to play for England while with us. This could take a while. Matthew Rudd