Now or never for Darron Gibson

By Lyndon Lloyd 09/06/2016  0 Comments  [Jump to last]

As the final quarter of 2015-16 plumbed the proverbial depths and awful result followed awful result, many Evertonians felt the impulse after three years under Roberto Martinez to see the club just rip everything up and start again; to throw out everything to do with the Catalan's tenure and start again.

Obviously, that wouldn't have been a practical or wise solution – there is plenty of talent in the Everton ranks for new man Ronald Koeman to re-shape, re-energise, re-train and then improve with targeted additions in the summer transfer window. However, there was certainly a sense that, with Farhad Moshiri's financial muscle, the days of the club needing to keep its older, deader wood lying around was over.

This summer, there are more players than usual that might answer to that somewhat harsh but, nevertheless, realistic description. Leon Osman has just turned 35, Tony Hibbert passed that milestone in February and his treatment room companion Steven Pienaar is now 34. Like the 37-year-old Tim Howard and "perma-crock" Felipe Mattioni, all three were expected to leave the club this summer and, of course, they still might.

Joining that list of departing players was expected to be Darron Gibson whose contract was also up at the end of this month, so it came as a surprise to many today when Everton announced that the 28-year-old has penned a new two-year deal with the club.

On the face of it, it's a move that, from Everton's perspective, simultaneously seems to make plenty of sense and yet no sense at all. Just as he struggled for fitness at Old Trafford, Gibson has battled a succession of injuries throughout his time with the Blues. In four-plus years at Goodison Park he has made just a season's worth of Premier League starts, 38, and just 12 in all competitions since Martinez took the helm in 2013. He arrived with a decent reputation for scoring goals from outside the box but has just two to his name in Everton colours.

With his time with the Blues seemingly winding down, he was made available for loan in January alongside his compatriot Aiden McGeady but either couldn't find a willing suitor or wasn't interested in any of the offers that came his way.

Throw in his drunk-driving charge, and subsequent sentencing to a 12-month community order last year – reason enough for some to cut ties with him this summer – the fact that he was overlooked by Martin O'Neill for this month's European Championships and Tom Davies's breakthrough into the first team all the signs were that Gibson would be eased out the door this summer regardless of who was manager.

Certainly, he hasn't been regarded as a first-team option in the minds of supporters for a long while, simply because he hasn't ever been reliable in terms of his availability and there are many who felt that a fresh start and a focus on bringing through maturing youth players would make more sense

The frustrating thing about Gibson, however, is that he is a very good footballer when he is fit enough to play. Able to operate in a defensive or attacking role, he can mix combative midfield play with visionary passing and, as he displayed in a couple of recent performances in Martinez's struggling team, he was one of the few players committed to moving the ball forward.

In that sense, he will always offer something as a squad rotation player when he is fit and, in the event that the plan is to tie him down to a new contract so that the club can secure a fee for him to another interested club rather than lose him for nothing, then it could be a gamble worth taking. More so if he has been retained on similar or reduced wages with sort of some pay-as-you-component to his new deal.

If his comments after signing his contract extension, where he says he has turned down other offers to remain with Everton, are any indication then he appears committed to fighting for his place. At 28, he should be at the peak of his powers and could provide valuable competition for places in apart of the field where there will be plenty with James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, Muhamed Besic and Davies all in contention.

But – and it's a significant "but" – there will always be concern over whether he can stay fit. In that regard, he has certainly not had the luck of the Irish but it's now or never then for the Derry-born midfielder.

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