Luke Gambin has owned up to his mistake after being sent off in Sunday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier but insisted that his rare aberration has done nothing to diminish his motivation to maintain the excellent start to his international career.
The 23-year-old had been Malta’s stand-out player during the 5-1 defeat to Scotland but blotted his evening after a straight red card for lashing out at Robert Snodgrass in stoppage time.
“I’m very disappointed about the end-result,” Gambin, who plays for League Two club Barnet FC, told Times of Malta yesterday.
“As for my experience, it was a surprise to me (that I got sent off).
“Frustration crept in, I made a mistake and I got punished for it.
“However, overall, it was still a good experience for me.”
Gambin lost his cool following an abrasive duel with Snodgrass as the two challenged for a loose ball.
“I always give my 100 per cent on the pitch,” Gambin said.
“I play with a lot of passion but I’ve learnt my lesson. The first half was really positive but the end of the game was very disappointing for all of us.”
The Malta winger had never been red-carded in his senior career before Sunday.
“It was my first sending-off and I don’t really know why it happened,” Gambin said.
“Everyone could see that I looked very surprised as I left the pitch.
“Every player in the team was very supportive. The older, more experienced ones got round me and gave me their advice, telling me to keep my head up and move on.”
Gambin, who has already won over the local fans with his electric performances, was the second Malta player to be expelled in Sunday’s qualifier after defender Jonathan Caruana had suffered the same fate on the hour for a non-existent foul on Chris Martin with Scotland establishing a 3-1 lead from the ensuing penalty.
“I felt for my team-mate Jonathan Caruana. His sending-off was critical for us,” Gambin said.
“That was the moment that got us fired up because at that point we were only a goal down.
“I know I made a mistake and I will live with it but otherwise I enjoyed being involved in the match and the stadium atmosphere.”
It’s a measure of Gambin’s positive impact on the national team that, since securing his Maltese passport in May, he has collected four caps, having started every game played by the national team over the past three months.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” Gambin said.
“I’ve enjoyed playing in all the friendly matches ahead of the Scotland qualifier.
“I enjoyed the trips to Austria and Estonia, you know being part of this group of players. It’s been great and the coach (Pietro Ghedin) has helped me a lot.”
Gambin’s dismissal against Scotland has put paid to his hopes of lining up against England, his home country, in the eagerly-awaited World Cup qualifier at Wembley Stadium on October 8.
You’d expect Gambin to be sulking about his impending FIFA ban but speaking with a maturity beyond his age, he was very philosophical about it.
“It would have been a great experience to play against England at Wembley,” Gambin reflected.
“But, I just have to deal with the consequences and it’s certainly not the end of the world.
“International football is not just one game. I’m happy to be part of the whole experience and looking forward to playing more matches for the national team.”
Although Gambin is out of the equation for the England game and possibly the following qualifier against Lithuania on October 11, he intends to travel to London to cheer his team-mates.
“I will definitely be there to support the team and say hello to the boys next month,” Gambin said.
“It’s going to be a difficult game but I believe that we can do well against England.
“We were playing really well on Sunday until the first sending-off. I don’t see why the national team can’t repeat that positive first-half showing at Wembley.”
Despite Malta’s dismal start to their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, Gambin remains upbeat about the team’s chances of picking up some positive results in Group F which also contains Slovakia and Slovenia.
“I don’t think the result against Scotland mirrored our performance,” Gambin said.
“We can get some good results, so we need to push on.”