Nivea Player Profile: Darron Gibson
A week after he confirmed his intention to return to the Irish set-up after a self-imposed exile, we look at the career of a man who could be a key player for the Boys in Green for the next decade.
Whatever your own opinions on Darron Gibson’s decision to abstain from international duty after the Euros until the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni recently, surely his intention to return is a good thing for Irish football for a number of reasons.
For a start, Irish players playing regular first-team football at a club firmly established in the top half of the Premier League has been a rare enough thing in recent years and there’s also the chance that, if they can be picked regularly for Everton, that Gibson and James McCarthy could become Ireland’s central midfield partnership for the foreseeable future.
Gibson turns 26 next month and it would appear to be the perfect time to push on with a career that has chugged along in fits and starts so far, although in Gibson’s defence, it takes a special kind of player to really make it at Manchester United, where the Derry native spent seven years before moving on to Everton in January of last year.
Having starred as a youngster in Derry, Gibson was snapped up by United in 2004 and, as was the case with a lot of United youth players in the Alex Ferguson era, he was given his debut in the Carling Cup when he played against Barnet in 2005.
Gibson had time on his side and to further his development and possibly toughen him up a little bit, he was sent on loan to United’s Belgian feeder club Royal Antwerp for the 2006/07 season, where he played over 30 games and scored a single goal.
He was off on loan again the following season, 2007/08, this time to Wolverhampton Wanderers, who at the time were playing in the Championship under Mick McCarthy. Gibson played more than 20 goals and again managed just a single goal but it was the last time he was to be sent on loan as he returned to Old Trafford to compete for a first-team place.
Despite being coveted by Northern Ireland, Gibson always held a desire to play for the Republic of Ireland and having first played for the Boys in Green at under-17 level, he subsequently represented the under-19 and under-21 sides before becoming a regular in the senior panel and making his debut as a substitute in an away friendly against Denmark in 2007.
By the time he made his first start against Cyprus in a World Cup qualifier in 2008, Gibson was back at Manchester United but didn’t begin to appear with any degree of regularity until the 2009/10 season when he played 23 times and scored five times, including in the defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final.
Thanks to his powerful right boot, Gibson was regularly urged to have a go whenever he got in range of the opposition goal, and while he has hit some crackers, including his only goal for Ireland to date in a Carling Nations Cup against Wales in 2011, he arguably should be scoring more for a man with his ability from long range.
Gibson nearly moved away from Old Trafford in the summer of 2011, so it was no surprise when, having barely featured at the beginning of the 2011/12 campaign, he moved to Everton in January 2012.
After featuring regularly under David Moyes for the rest of that season, it was thought that Gibson would have a big part to play at the Euros but Trap stayed loyal to Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews in what was a disastrous tournament, with the final straw coming for Gibson when Paul Green was brought on instead of him against Spain in Gdansk.
Gibson hasn’t played for Ireland since but has already signalled his intention to come back now that Trap is gone and could well be in Noel King’s extended squad for the final qualifiers against Germany against Kazakhstan when it is named on Monday.
Gibson played 69 minutes in the Capital One Cup defeat to Fulham last night, his first game of the season following a knee injury.
With the arrival of James McCarthy and Gareth Barry in the transfer window, he has a battle on his hands to maintain a regular place in the Everton midfield this season, but Irish fans will be hoping that he can and that we will have three first team regulars in a team likely to finish in, or at least close to, the top six this season.