In a week when Northern Ireland’s Jonny Evans said he hopes to spend the rest of his career at Manchester United, one wonders if former Old Trafford team-mate Darron Gibson might be looking on enviously.
Trapattoni names his squad to face Poland on Monday for next month’s friendly with Poland but it appears the he and Gibson are no longer in direct contact. It would be a massive surprise if the Derryman, who has excelled in Everton’s midfield this season, was recalled from the wilderness.
Following the fall-out from Ireland’s disastrous Euro 2012, Gibson has no longer made himself available for selection with the Republic. Incensed at being constantly over-looked by Giovanni Trapattoni, Gibson chose to stand his ground and he has not featured in the squad since.
Reports of a bust-up in Poland also emerged when Gibson apparently threatened to walk-out of the camp following Paul Green’s introduction from the subs’ bench in the hammering by Spain.
The comparisons between Gibson and Evans are obvious. Both were spotted by United as youngsters growing up in Northern Ireland. Evans came through the youth system at Old Trafford having been scouted as a 9-year-old in Belfast. Gibson was playing junior football in Derry. Both players were sent out on loan to United’s Belgian feeder club Royal Antwerp in 2006.
Gibson made 60 appearances in seven years at Old Trafford and was famously urged by Giovanni Trapattoni to leave the Red Devils to secure first team football, leading to a fiery retort from the 25-year-old.
This week, Jonny Evans said he wanted to finish his career at United having stepped in at the heart of the defence following injury to Nemanja Vidic. Like Evans (also aged 25), Gibson knew he was never likely to be at a bigger club than Manchester United and he had hoped to bide his time and make the breakthrough. Eventually, he agreed with his international manager and moved to Everton in January 2012 where he has since become a main-stay with David Moyes’ high-flyers. His reward from Trapattoni has been to be ignored for a regular place in the Irish team. Others, like James McCarthy and most gallingly in Poland, Paul Green, jumped ahead of him in the pecking order.
Gibson is bound to be happier on Merseyside playing every week for a competitive Premier League side. It’s his international career that may give him cause for regret. Initially caught up at the centre of an international tug-of-war between Northern Ireland, whom he represented at U16 level, and their neighbours to the south, few Irish players will have gone through the struggle endured by Gibson to pull on the Republic’s shirt which makes the current state of affairs all the more disappointing.
Just before Christmas, Jonny Evans joined his club team-mates to show off his poker skills when winning United’s charity challenge in aid of a Northern Irish hospice. In two week’s time, the player who’s made 31 appearances for the North, will be preparing for an away friendly in Malta while Trapattoni’s Republic players head for Dublin to take on Poland. Darron Gibson will be at home on the sofa wondering if his gamble has paid off.