Danny Invicibile

December 4, 2013

Name: Danny Invincibile

DOB: 31 March 1979 (age 34)

POB: Brisbane, Australia

Position: Attacking

Midfielder/Right winger/ Striker

Clubs: Brisbane Strikers, Marconi Stallions, Swindon Town, Kilmarnock, St. Johnstone, Ermis Aradippou, Army United

Even the best of athletes in team sports can tarnish their legacy by remaining in once place for too long. So when you’re an above average SPL attacker the chances of doing so increase greatly when you hang around Rugby Park for seven and a half years. Throw in injury and an overall loss of team form and a once revered name suddenly has negative connotations. Because, in truth, and remember to whisper it, Danny Invincibile used to be pretty good.

That comment, of course, does not reflect a horrible couple of campaigns towards the end when he jumped in and out of a Kilmarnock team that plunged towards the bottom of the SPL table. But these were the years when Killie continually found their best talent poached and manager Jim Jefferies unable to replace them effectively. Invincibile was a squad player who often played on the peripheries before unleashing his match winning talent on an unsuspecting opponent. The worse the team got the more his platform reduced. At their peak in the mid-noughties he was a valuable asset either up front or on the wing.

In the days before the A League, Invincibile strutted his stuff in the top level of Australian “soccer” for the Brisbane Strikers and then the Marconi Stallions. As a 21-year old he decided to take a chance and travelled to the UK, winning a trial match with West Ham. While it was obvious he didn’t possess the skills to play at the top level in England, he did enough to impress the watching Colin Todd who immediately signed the player for Swindon.

Despite his protestations that he was a centre attacking midfielder, Todd used him on the right wing as he looked to use the player’s pace against the slower full-backs of the league. Unfortunately for Todd, he was soon forced out the door with the club enduring a miserable season. Andy King took over and began to play Invincibile at wing-back. The thinking was clear: his energy and pace made him the perfect physical specimen for a two-way wide player. The trouble was Invincibile couldn’t defend to save himself and soon found a place on the bench. It goes to show just how poor Swindon were this season that he still managed to finish the club’s top goalscorer. Included in his tally of nine league strikes was a dramatic injury time volley that defeated Peterborough and ensured the club’s safety in the third tier.

King was replaced by Roy Evans in the summer, but the former Liverpool boss couldn’t oversee an upturn in fortune and King was back in charge by December. It was enough time for the player’s attacking career to be revived after Evans tried him out up front. Strangely his goal tally didn’t improve much – he was never much of a poacher – but his threat would often cause mayhem in opposing defences. King decided to stick with the experiment and the Australian was cemented in the first team from then on.

When 2003 arrived he turned down the offer of a new contract, wishing to move up the football world. Aberdeen were interested, along with a few clubs from the English Championship, but the team that managed to seal the deal were Kilmarnock. Invincibile joined by fellow summer recruits Martin Hardie and Colin Nish as manager Jim Jefferies looked to improve on the fourth place finish they had achieved the year before. Speaking about the capture Jefferies said:

“The lad is quality and exactly what we need in the squad. He is pacey in the extreme, good in the air and can control the ball well with either foot.”

The new gaffer’s praise ringing in his ears, Invincibile took to the Rugby Park pitch as a second half substitute in a pre-season friendly. He received an early touch and promptly fell over the ball, leading to a Sunderland goal. He later atoned for the error by ramming home Killie’s fourth in a what was perceived to be a moral boosting win. Things certainly started off well with a 2-1 win in the player’s home debut, but he would limp off towards the end, out for a couple of months. When he returned he found a Killie team vastly underachieving when compared with the heights of the previous campaign. It was also difficult to get back into the starting eleven. Among the attacking corps were Colin Nish, Gary McSwegan, Paul di Giacomo, the emerging talents of Kris Boyd, and cameos from a young Craig Dargo. Invincibile’s claims for a place were not helped by the fact that he was unable to score in any of his first 14 games. It would take until March and a 4-2 win over Dundee for him to finally break his duck. Invincibile scored twice and the tannoy speakers played “Men At Work” at the game’s conclusion. A late equaliser in a draw against Hearts and the opener in a 4-1 defeat by United meant he finished with a flourish, but it had been a frustrating year for player and club.

It was imperative he got off to a quick start the following August and his double in the CIS Cup win over Hamilton, in August, certainly helped that. With Allan Johnston operating on the other wing, Jefferies would switch between a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3 and it was clear in the early months that the team were better for it. And yet improvement was still slow. They sat fifth at the end of October but dropped back down the bottom six the following month and never returned. Still, there were positives to take, especially for the player. He drew praise for a terrific performance in a late season 1-0 win over Dundee and scored a terrific 25 yard curler to help defeat Dundee United in March.

The 2005-06 campaign was the peak of Invincibile’s career. Playing in 37 league games, he aided Kilmarnock in being one of the league’s most consistent teams. The Ayrshire club had an incredible record against the bottom six: winning 13 of their 18 fixtures against the bottom feeders and losing none. Even when Killie lost Kris Boyd in January they still motored on to a top six and an eventual fifth place finish. On an individual level, Invincibile was finally growing into his skin as a footballer; recognising how best to use his strength and hide his weaknesses as he continually tormented opposing defences.

His performances continued well into the next campaign, including securing the first goal of the game as Jefferies won at Tynecastle for the first time against his old club. He also netted the winner in a League Cup quarter-final clash with Motherwell, curling in a superb finish from the edge of the penalty area to put the club into the last four. Everything was going so well, and then disaster struck. Having complained about pain and stiffness coming from his groin (stop it!) it was discovered that Invincibile had “Gilmore’s groin”, more commonly known as sports hernia, a condition that would require surgery. At first the player retained hope of being able to feature in the League Cup Final, which the side advanced to thanks to Stevie Naismith’s hat-trick against Falkirk, but it soon became apparent it was the end of his season. He was forced to watch on as his teammates were dismantled 5-1 in the final by Hibs.

In all he spent seven months out of the game and didn’t regain full fitness until the 2007-08 campaign had already kicked off. It meant he missed a full pre-season, which preceded a series of niggling injuries. As for the rest of the side, they rallied round after the departure of Naismith to Rangers and sat in fifth at the end of October, but gradually fell away en route to an embarrassing 11th place finish.

It was the beginning of the end for both Invincibile and his manager, but the situation wasn’t helped by the latter giving the former a new two year deal in January of the following season. Neither player nor team had performed well and many around Rugby Park felt it was time to rid themselves of some of these ageing talents in favour of fresh faces. Instead, Jefferies signed Kevin Kyle and the big striker’s goals briefly masked over the problems.

For everyone connected with Kilmarnock, the 2009-10 season was a disaster. The team won only three of 19 away matches and were in serious danger of being relegated. Jefferies had endured similarly poor seasons, but had been comforted by the presence of a staggeringly bad side (like Partick Thistle in ’04 and Gretna in ’08). This time there was no safety net and it prompted the club to part ways with the manager. Kilmarnock limped along under Jimmy Calderwood and made it out alive by the skin of their teeth. Major changes were needed.

Mixu Paatelainen provided such a need with a flowing 4-5-1 system that saw Invincibile leading the attack to begin the new season. Killie lost both games and the player was dropped, rarely to be seen again. In February he joined St Johnstone on a short term deal but, with the exception of a goal in the Scottish Cup tie against Brechin, he was a rather poor addition to a struggling attacking unit and his contract was not renewed in the summer.

Invincibile was a much-maligned figure in the latter part of his career at Killie, but it wasn’t always that way. In his first few seasons he was a hard-working right-winger who used his pace and power to reasonable effect and chipped in with the odd goal. He was often moved into the centre-forward role in the later part of games, and many supporters (including myself) thought that he was actually much more effective as a supporting striker than he was out wide.

His best form came during the 2006/07 season, when he was an important part of an entertaining Killie team which made it to the League Cup final. Invincible scored a wonderful winner against Motherwell in the quarter-final, but picked up an injury which ruled him out of the semi-final, in which Steven Naismith scored a hat-trick to eliminate Falkirk at Fir Park. The Aussie retained hopes of making it back in time for the final against Hibs, but it wasn’t to be. Paul di Giacomo lined up wide right for Killie, with Simon Ford behind him at right-back, and it was that side of the park which Hibs ruthlessly exposed, with David Murphy and Lewis Stevenson (who was named man of the match) given the freedom of Hampden as the Edinburgh side won 5-1.

In truth, Invincibile’s Killie career never really recovered from that injury. He would go on to play for another three and a half seasons at Rugby Park, but with the cup final defeat marking a downturn in Killie’s fortunes under Jim Jefferies, the Aussie became an easy scapegoat and was the regular subject of abuse from the stands – some justified, but much of it unfair. When Mixu Paatelainen arrived in 2010, he initially selected Invincibile as his first choice striker, with the Aussie starting the opening two matches of the season. However after two defeats Mixu replaced Invincibile with Conor Sammon, and the Irishman proved a much better fit to the free-flowing football under the Finn, forming a telepathic understanding with Alexei Eremenko. Invincibile would start just one more game, before being allowed to leave the club in January.

— Craig Anderson, @SPLStats


Where is he now? Danny is still playing. His current club are Army United in the Thai Premier League.

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