Dutch defender Gentile slams former Burnley boss Waddle

Former Claret Marco Gentile
Former Claret Marco Gentile

Former Claret Marco Gentile makes his first return to Turf Moor on Saturday, 16 years after his all-too-brief stay.

Back in the summer of 1997, the Dutch centre back, then 26, was signed on a Bosman free by Adrian Heath from MVV Maastricht.

The nephew of Juventus legend Claudio, a World Cup winner in 1982, he was hailed one of the best uncapped stars in the Netherlands by no other than Ruud Gullit, having shackled some of the top strikers in Holland.

But within days of signing, Heath left to link up with old mentor Howard Kendall as Everton assistant boss, and Burnley unveiled Chris Waddle as his successor.

Waddle brought in his own men, initially disregarding much of the talent available, signing the likes of Steve Blatherwick, Neil Moore and Lee Howey, who also featured as a striker.

Gentile would play just one competitive game, at Stoke in a League Cup tie, with Burnley already 4-0 down from the first leg.

He returned to Holland with Volendam, but is back with tomorrow’s opponents Sparta Rotterdam, where he is a technical analyst.

Ahead of his first trip back, he said: “I’m very happy to be going back to Burnley, it’s the first time and I’m looking forward to it. When I saw the pre-season schedule it was a nice surprise.

“I had a very short time in England, a long time ago in 1997, and hopefully I will see some of the people I remember from the offices.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for him at Burnley, and he explained: “Chris Waddle never talked to me, he never asked anything of me, and he had me on the transfer list after just two days, and that was that. For me, it was very disappointing.

“I didn’t say to him ‘I have to play’, and he didn’t say ‘you’re at a new team in a new country, take your time’, it was just ‘out!’ Waddle was a great player, and I don’t know, maybe he was a good coach or trainer, but his people skills were very bad. He wasn’t interested in the players’ minds.

“He had no respect, and that was very disappointing because he was a big player and a big name.”

Gentile has pondered whether he should have stayed to fight for his place, and he added: “When I signed the contract for Adrian Heath, I went back to Holland, and when I got back, I got a call saying Adrian had gone to Everton, but it was no problem for me or my family, that the new manager would be okay.

“But we didn’t know who it was at that time.

“It is normal in football, trainers can go to other clubs and players leave as well, it happens. So it didn’t really work out for me in England. Two or three years before I can been offered a contract at Leicester City, but the deal fell through.

“I have no regrets though. I continue to look for Burnley’s results on the internet, and I’m very interested in the club.

“It was great to see Burnley in the Premier League, I still follow Burnley and I remember the play-off final at Wembley. For me, it is a big club and I was happy to be there for a few months.

“Maybe I might have stayed there because I signed a three-year deal and it was too early.

“Other players who weren’t playing stayed and later got in the team. I could have waited for my chance, and maybe it was the wrong decision to go, but I was young, and I’m older and wiser now. Waddle made the decision for me.

“I went back to Holland and then played for Willem II, and we played in the Champions League, so I took two steps back to make a big step forward. The Champions League is the highest level for a player and a club, and it was great for Willem II and their history, and to be a part of that.”

Gentile is enjoying a different role now with Sparta: “Now I am a technical analyst with video, and sometimes I am a defensive trainer.

“Sparta Rotterdam is a very big, old club, and I am enjoying my job. I miss playing, but it is really enjoyable working with the players.

“Maybe I will go back into coaching, but I’m not someone who makes a future, I will just see what happens.

“You just have to work hard for yourself and the club.”