Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Terminator Festa Was Such a Good Sport

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Terminator Festa Was Such a Good Sport

Article excerpt

Byline: Anthony Vickers Sports reporter anthony.vickers@eveninggazette.co.uk

WHEN rock-hard Luca Festa played he was always right at the heart of the action. Just ask Kevin Phillips.

The Sardinian stopper was sent off for showering blood and saliva over the Sunderland striker after the pair tangled and exchanged blows in a feisty 1-0 derby win in January 2002.

He later angrily denied he had been spitting, quite rightly saying that was an horrifying and disgusting act, and explained he was merely snorting mid-argument to clear the debris from his nose after being caught by Phillips' flying elbow.

That was one of cult hero Festa's four red cards and he had 34 yellows to boot in a five-year, 171-game, 12-goal career at Boro that included some of the most exciting times in the club's history.

He played at Wembley three times in a year and had a perfectly good goal ruled out in the FA Cup final against Chelsea at a crucial stage of the game.

He was left distraught after he scored a heart-break own goal in the "Big Cards" semi-final at Old Trafford as Boro bossed Arsenal but somehow lost.

But he scored one that did count in the game that had everything, the dramatic 3-3 FA Cup semi-final draw with Chesterfield.

And he thought he had scored in the League Cup quarter final at Reading in 1998 and ran off celebrating then spent the next 10 minutes putting tackles in while trying to get his shirt back on.

Festa was nails. He was passionate and tough-tackling, superb in the air, had excellent positioning, incredible stamina and was totally unflustered or deflected by dents. He was a defensive Terminator.

He arrived in for PS2.7m from Inter Milan in January 1997 to stiffen up a creaky and porous defence not really capable of supporting Boro's cavalier attack and quickly picked up the accolade of having his own song - although he wasn't totally convinced the Addam's Family theme was complimentary.

He scored on his debut - a 4-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday - did add steel and poise at the back as Boro belatedly started to fight back after the ravages of a shocking few months and the burning injustice of the Three Points and you can't help wonder what would have happened had he and Mark Schwarzer arrived a month sooner. …

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