Flair Icons #14: Benito Carbone

Benito Carbone 

by Michael Laskey (@mike_laskey)

Born: 14/08/71

Clubs: Torino, Reggina, Casertana, Ascoli, Napoli, Inter Milan, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa, Bradford City, Derby County, Middlesborough, Como, Parma, Catanzaro, Vicenza, Sydney FC, Pavia

Management: Pavia, Varese

Former Premier League journeyman Benito ‘Benny’ Carbone is perhaps best remembered in Britain for his penchant for spectacular goals and flowing black hair.

During his time in English football he spent time with Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa, Bradford City, Derby County and Middlesborough, racking up a total of 177 appearances in the top flight. He was most loved in Yorkshire, quickly becoming a fan favourite in the blue half of Sheffield after his £3 million move from Inter Milan and later endearing himself to Bradford fans with some impressive strikes.

When I was around nine years old, I went to my first football match. My dad, a lifelong Sheffield Wednesday fan, took me on the tram from Donetsk Way to Leppings Lane, a journey that took the best part of an hour. The memory of a wave of blue and white shirts and scarves pouring off that tram on a dark January night is still vivid now. I had never seen such a crowd. I remember the young me being totally exhilarated, eyes wide as I wondered what the view would be like from the stands.

This was the 1998-99 season, the campaign in which Carbone’s teammate, fellow countryman and Flair Icon Paolo Di Canio made the headlines for pushing referee Paul Alcock to the ground. My father and I were going to see the Owls host a Tottenham side with the likes of Sol Campbell, Darren Anderton and David Ginola. I don’t remember much of the day, but I do remember Benito Carbone playing out of his skin. His passing, his shooting from range, the way the ball was seemingly at his will. He instantly became my favourite player.

I have no doubt Carbone also became the favourite player for many other young Sheffielders during his time at Hillsborough. Given some of the extraordinary goals he scored for the Owls, it’s not hard to see why many Wednesdayites pine for the days of Premier League football, as their club currently fights for promotion from League One.

Since leaving England after a thirteen game spell with Middlesborough, Carbone returned to his native Italy, playing first for Como and later for Parma, Catanzaro and Vicenza. An unexpected move to Australia followed in 2006, when he signed a trial contract with Sydney FC. He was the club’s planned replacement for previous star striker Dwight Yorke. Carbone impressed in this first match, scoring one and setting up two, but in just his third game down under he pulled a hamstring.

With his spell in Sydney over, Carbone once again returned to Italy, joining Pavia of Serie C1, the third tier of Italian football, in August 2007. Settling in the Lombardy, town, Carbone played 80 games for Pavia and went on to be named Head Coach in March last year. Saving the club from relegation, Carbone attracted interest from Serie B side Varese, who appointed him manager in June 2011. Benito’s time at Varese was less successful, with the new coach winning just once in seven matches, bad enough for an impatient board to say ‘arrivederci’ and sack him from his second management position.

What next for Benito Carbone? Will he follow Di Canio’s career path, take over a lower league English team and parade the touchline in designer sunglasses? We’ll have to see, but whatever happens it is likely that the more, shall we say, reserved Carbone has a long way to go if he wants to attract the same kind of media attention as Sheffield Wednesday’s other famous Italian.


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