Veteran Richard Garcia has announced his retirement from professional football, after a special 20 year career in the game.
Garcia played for eight clubs through his career, most notably appearing for Hull City in their two-year stint in the English Premier League between 2008 and 2010. He also represented the Socceroos on 17 occassions, two of those at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
We take a look back through his glorious 20 year career, starting at West Ham United in 1997.
WEST HAM UNITED – 1997 to 2004
Loaned to Leyton Orient in 2000.
Garcia was just 15 years old when the young starlet headed to East London, after spotting his talent playing for Olympic Kingsway in Perth in 1996. The Hammers Youth Academy was something to behold – it featured the likes of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard through the mid-to-late ’90s, a group Garcia trained alongside frequently at the club.
His West Ham United Youth side made history at the club, wrapping up the 1998/99 FA Youth Cup, where Garcia scored in every round of the tournament, bagging a total of eight goals in the competition.
Garcia ruptured his Anterior Cruciate Ligament during a successful 21 match loan spell at Leyton Orient. He returned hungrier than ever, making his First Team debut for West Ham against Reading in the League Cup in September 2001. He went on to make 16 English Premier League appearances, earning a total of 22 senior caps for the Hammers before moving to Colchester United in 2004.
COLCHESTER UNITED – 2004 to 2007
Garcia starred at Colchester United in England’s third division, helping the club to promotion to the Championship in his second year with the club. Most notably, Garcia shone in the 5th Round of the FA Cup clash against Jose Mourinho’s famed Chelsea side, forcing an own goal from Ricardo Carvalho to give the ‘U’s a shock 1-0 lead at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea eventually won the match 3-1, thanks to a double from Garcia’s ex-West Ham Youth teammate Joe Cole. Garcia went on to score 21 goals in 96 appearances for the club, before his big move to Hull City in 2007.
HULL CITY – 2007 to 2012
Garcia made a free transfer to Hull City in the European summer of 2007 and it was at the Tigers that Garcia’s career would hit its prime.
He hit the ground running with the club, playing a pivotal role in their extremely successful campaign in the Championship. Garcia scored Hull City’s goal of the season in the Championship (see 0:32 in video below), a scintillating strike from 35 yards out against Burnley. Hull went on to win promotion to the English Premier League via the playoff, with the Tigers prevailing 1-0 over Bristol City in front of over 86,000 people at Wembley Stadium. Garcia played a full game, while Aussie compatriot Nick Carle played 76 minutes for the losers Bristol City.
The next season, Garcia made his long awaited return to Premier League action with the Tigers against Fulham on the 16 August 2008. He then scored his first top-flight goal against Blackburn Rovers the next weekend, a header in the 39th minute to secure a 1-1 draw for Hull City at home. Garcia featured in 41 English Premier League matches in total for the Tigers, before they were relegated back to the Championship in May 2010. Garcia stayed with the Tigers until 2012, before returning to the Hyundai A-League.
THE SOCCEROOS – 2008 to 2012
After featuring so prominently for Hull City during their promotion charge in 2007-08, then Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek called on the winger to make his debut for Australia against South Africa in London, a match that finished 2-2.
His continued strong form saw him selected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, realising his dream when he became Hull City’s first ever World Cup player when he started against Germany in Rustenberg, playing 64 minutes before being substitued for fellow West Australian Nikita Rukavytsya. The Germans ran out 4-0 winners in their World Cup opener, and Garcia would feature again from the bench in the final match of the group stage in a 2-1 victory over Serbia.
SYDNEY FC AND MELBOURNE HEART – 2012 to 2014
Garcia represented both the Sky Blues and the old-Melbourne Heart before heading West to Perth Glory in 2014. During that time, he made 47 appearances in total and scored 12 goals.
MINNESOTA UNITED – 2014
Garcia also made a quick two game cameo in the United States’ second division, known as the NASL (North American Soccer League) for Minnesota United. He made his debut against the Atlanta Silverbacks in Minneapolis.
PERTH GLORY – 2014 to 2017
Garcia hadn’t represented a West Australian club since Olympic Kingsway player in 1996, and finally he returned home in mid-2014 to join Perth Glory, where Garcia scored five goals in 58 games.
The veteran Garcia immediately made an impact at the club, scoring important goals in big games against Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City in his first season. His on-field leadership and experience saw him elevated to club captain for the 2015-16 season, where he led Glory to their first finals appearance in 3 years.
In his final season of his career, Garcia bided his time before finally being called on in Round 22 to face Wellington Phoenix across the ditch in New Zealand. Despite missing a whopping 21 rounds of Hyundai A-League action, Garcia slid right back into the side seamlessly, proving a pivotal player with a stunning header against Brisbane Roar in the lead-in to another finals campaign for Perth Glory. Garcia played both games against Melbourne City and Sydney FC in the finals, his last official matches in professional football.
Garcia was the deserved winner the 2016-17 Best Clubman Award at the QBE Most Glorious Player Awards, recognising his significant role he’s played at the club this year as a player-coach across all levels of football.
Fittingly, Garcia will play one more match in England on June 4, when he will feature for Michael Carrick’s All Star XI against Manchester United 2008 heroes in front of over 75,000 people at the Old Trafford in Manchester. It will be the first time Garcia has played at the legendary stadium since featuring for Hull City against then-European Champions Manchester United on December 29, 2009.
Garcia goes down as one of West Australia’s sporting legends and best exports to the international sporting world. From all of us at Perth Glory, it’s been a pleasure to work with Garcia and we wish him a happy retirement!