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Nardiello deserves a cheer after goalscoring efforts for Exeter

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 24, 2012

Exeter City

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Any player who returns to a former club runs the risk of being heckled and it will be interesting to see what happens when Daniel Nardiello runs out for Rotherham United at Exeter City today.

The striker spent two years at St James' Park and summarising his time in Devon, you would have to say it was a mixed spell.

There were some incredible highs, such as his last-minute winner in a highly-charged Johnstone's Paint Trophy game at Plymouth Argyle and some real lows, such as his red card at Charlton Athletic.

However, one thing we did learn about "Nards" was that on his day, he was breathtakingly brilliant, such as at Walsall last season, when he produced probably his best performance in a City shirt and he scored both goals as the Grecians won 2-1.

Nardiello arrived with a reputation. He had played for Manchester United and scored goals at Championship level for various clubs, but injuries had hindered his progress in the game. When he arrived at Exeter, he was 27 and should have been in the prime of his footballing career.

Nardiello went on to make 77 appearances for the Grecians, more than any other club he has represented so far. He found a club in Exeter that allowed him to get over the injuries that had cruelly disrupted his career to date and pretty much afforded him the freedom to play his natural game.

Nardiello would surely admit he learnt much at Exeter. By the end of his time at the club, he was predominantly used as a left-sided attacker with the club improving defensive aspects of his game. But Nardiello was no defender. He loved scoring goals.

His first came in an emotional game against Bristol Rovers at St James' Park, the first time City had played on home soil since the tragic death of the club's number nine, Adam Stansfield.

There was a goose-pimpling, lump-in-the-throat irony that the goal came on nine minutes and the striker celebrated the goal by holding the shirt of Stansfield with his new team-mates. A further 23 goals were to follow for Nardiello during his time at Exeter, 13 of which in his first season. But none were celebrated as much as that goal against Argyle, which guaranteed him a place in City folklore.

It may only have been a JPT clash, but that atmosphere inside Home Park that night was hostile, to say the least. Newcomers to Devon derbies were left in no doubt as to how much they meant to both Exeter and Plymouth fans with the game the first meeting between the two clubs in eight and a half years. During that time, the fortunes of both clubs had gone in polar directions and the fact Nardiello won it in stoppage time merely added to the occasion.

That season, Nardiello helped Exeter finish eighth in League One, but the following year was not a happy one. He had signed a one-year extension to his Exeter deal, but often cut a frustrated figure on the football field.

His arm-waving, moaning and bawling at team-mates did not go down well on the terraces and when his arguing got him into trouble at Charlton, it was the beginning of the end in many respects.

At the time, City were drawing 0-0 at The Valley. Nardiello may have had a point and his effort did appear to cross the line, but the goal was not given. Nardiello was still contesting the "goal" some five minutes later to a linesman, who brought it to the attention of the referee, who sent him off.

Nardiello did show remorse for his misdemeanour and he promptly scored seven goals in seven games for what, in truth, was a poor and struggling Exeter team. Only three more followed as the team slipped out of League One and it was no surprise when Nardiello announced that he, too, was leaving and signing for ambitious Rotherham.

I hope Nards gets a cheer today because, the red card aside, he was as good for Exeter as they were for him and there are far more fond memories of him than bad. Let's just hope he is not celebrating another stoppage-time winner come full-time today.

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