The decline of Darron Gibson

In April 2010, Darron Gibson was scoring against Bayern Munich in the Champions League for Manchester United.

Fast forward eight years, and the Republic of Ireland international faces jail time after being found guilty of drink-driving for the second time in three years.

The 30 year old was allegedly over three times over the limit on St. Patrick’s Day, when he crashed into several parked cars on his way to Sunderland training.

Gibson’s Sunderland contract was terminated shortly after the incident, and the Derry native is currently without a club.

“It’s true my career has not gone to plan,” he told The Express last year.

“I should have played an awful lot more games considering I made my United debut so young.”

He was tipped for big things at Old Trafford, so how has it come to this?

Gibson made his first team debut for United at the age of 18, in a League Cup clash against Barnet in October 2005.

The following May, the midfielder won the Jimmy Murphy Award as United’s youth player of the year. His form for the Red Devils’ reserves earned him an inclusion on that summer’s pre-season tour, but he had to wait until 2008 to make his Premier League debut.

He spent the 2006/07 season on loan at Royal Antwerp, but was hampered by injuries during his spell in Belgium. Another loan beckoned in the ’07/08 season, as Gibson was sent to Wolves where he was managed by Mick McCarthy.

The Derryman made 24 appearances for the Championship side, scoring one goal.

His Man United debut came in November ’08. He came off the bench at Old Trafford as Alex Ferguson’s side stuffed Stoke 5-0. A first taste of Champions League action soon followed, as Gibson took part in a 0-0 draw at Villareal.

While first team chances were often sporadic, Gibson continued to catch the eye with his long-distance shooting ability and his range of passing.

He scored his first senior goal for United in a 3-0 win over Southampton in the FA Cup in January 2009.

His Man United debut came in November ’08. He came off the bench at Old Two months later, he started alongside Paul Scholes in midfield in the League Cup final at Wembley. Gibson played 90 minutes before being replaced by Ryan Giggs in extra time, and the Red Devils eventually beat Spurs 4-1 on penalties to seal the trophy.

His first league goal followed in the final match of the season against Hull City.

The Republic of Ireland international was praised for his eye-catching performance against Spurs in the 2008/09 League Cup, helping United to dump Tottenham out of the competition by scoring both goals in a 2-0 win.

“Darron is the one player in our club who can score great goals from outside the box,” Sir Alex Ferguson claimed.

“He has such tremendous power in his shot.”

He then started the Champions League second leg quarter-final tie against Bayern Munich, and scored an excellent strike from distance to give United the lead after just three minutes at Old Trafford. United went on to win 3-2 in Manchester, but were eliminated by the German giants on away goals.

“You saw Gibson’s performance against Bayern Munich,” Ferguson gushed afterwards.

“That was his sixth goal of the season [in all competitions] and you cannot dismiss that.

“It is the kind of contribution we used to get from Paul Scholes. He used to get me 12 to 14 goals from midfield all the time and we haven’t had a player like that in a while.”

Gibson also scored in the following season’s Champions League semi-final, this time against Schalke. Despite scoring against the Germans, Gibson failed to make the bench for United’s 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the final.

That was as good as it got for the Ireland international at Old Trafford.

He was part of the 2010/11 title winning United squad, but made just 12 appearances in the league.  After making just one appearance in the first half of the 2011/12 season, Gibson was sold to Everton in January 2012.

He left the club having scored 10 goals in 60 appearances.

Everton snapped up Gibson for an undisclosed fee on January 13th, 2012.

The Derryman made his debut for the Toffees the next day as the Merseyside club drew 1-1 with Aston Villa.

He scored his first Everton goal in a 1-0 win over Manchester City, and showed signs of his best form at Goodison Park.

The former United midfielder made 11 league appearances for David Moyes’ Everton in the second half of the season without tasting defeat once.

Gibson made 23 league appearances in his first full season with the Toffees, with his solitary goal coming against QPR. In his first two seasons at the club, Everton won 52% of the matches Gibson played in and just 25% of those he missed.

However, he made just one appearance in his third season at the club, after picking up a cruciate ligament injury which kept him sidelined for a lengthy period.

Injuries continued to hamper his career, and he made just 16 league appearances over the next two seasons as a result.

At the start of the 2015/16 season, he jumped into his car and drove into three cyclists while under the influence. This resulted in a fine and a 20 month driving ban.

He had not made a single Premier League appearance in the first half of the 2016/17 campaign, finding himself well down the pecking order at Goodison under Dutch manager Ronald Koeman.

After 51 appearances and two goals, Darron Gibson’s time at Everton was over.

His international career had completely fizzled out by this point, in a period where Gibson should have been entering his peak.

After a tug of war between Northern Ireland (who Gibson represented at underage level) and the Republic of Ireland, he made his senior debut for The Boys in Green in August 2007, coming off the bench to provide an assist as Denmark were defeated 4-0 in Aarhus.

He made his competitive international debut the following month as a substitute as the Republic of Ireland drew 2-2 with Slovakia in a Euro 2008 qualifying match.

His first start for The Boys in Green came under Giovanni Trapattoni in a 1–0 win at home to Cyprus on 15 October 2008, but Gibson had to wait until 2011 for his first and only international goal.

He scored the first goal after an hour as  Trapattoni’s men picked up a 3–0 victory over Wales in the first match of the 2011 Nations Cup.

The midfielder was an unused substitute for the entirety of the Euro 2012 group stage, and made himself unavailable for international duty while Trapattoni was boss afterwards.

He returned to the international fold under interim manager Noel King, playing against Germany and Kazakhstan – tearing his cruciate in the latter game – in 2013.

His most recent international appearance came in 2014, as The Boys in Green beat Gibraltar 7-0.

In total, he has made 27 international appearances, scoring one goal.

“Darron Gibson is a good passer, a good footballer, he’s got really good qualities and I hope he’ll show that, I really do.”

Those were the words of David Moyes when he brought Gibson to Sunderland from Everton on January 30th, 2017.

The struggling Black Cats – who had endured a miserable start to the season – signed Gibson on an 18 month contract for an undisclosed fee, along with his Everton teammate Brian Oviedo.

Moyes had managed the midfielder before, and seemed the right man to get the Irish international back to his best.

Gibson made 12 appearances for Sunderland as they finished bottom of the English top flight with just 24 points, having won just six league matches all season.

After the club were relegated, Gibson was filmed drunkenly slating his teammates in a hotel bar.

“There are too many people at the club who don’t give a f*#k,” he ranted. “I’m off my face in here.”

He made 15 appearances in the Championship this season before his arrest for drink-driving, and now his football future looks entirely uncertain.

Injuries – as well as indiscipline – have certainly played their part.

Despite making his debut at 18, Gibson has amassed just 94 Premier League appearances. Those matches have yielded five goals and eight assists.

“Darron Gibson was an example of one who brings you to that crossroads,” Alex Ferguson later wrote in his autobiography.

It seems that is Gibson who finds himself at the crossroads now.


This article originally appeared on The Season Ticket.

Written by david_smith

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