Gibson lifts lid on Trap and signals desire to return
You could sum it up quite simply, really: Darron Gibson wants to play for Ireland again but he couldn’t play for Trap.
By Liam Mackey
But the headline alone could hardly do justice to the full force of the interview the Everton midfielder has given Irish journalists in Manchester, as the man who stepped back from international football finally gave public vent to the anger and frustration which has been boiling up inside him ever since Giovanni Trapattoni left him out of the Euro 2012 finals in Poland.
This is Darron Gibson’s side of that story.
“If the fans read this interview and you put it in the paper the way I have said it and they still disagree with me, then I will just have to deal with it,” he says.
“But once they have read what I have had to say — because they have not heard it before — I think everything should be alright.
“Believe me, I have been thinking about (getting it off my chest) for a long time but I did not want to disrespect the manager and say anything about him so I just kept quiet. It was difficult. There were a few times I nearly bit back and said something but I knew if I said one thing that I would have to say everything which I did not really want to do. I did not want to cause any trouble or any fuss. I was going to keep quiet until he left.”
Now that the Italian has departed, Gibson has decided to break his silence.
“To be honest with you, I was embarrassed when I came back from the Euros,” he says. “Not winning a game and not getting on the pitch. I was playing every week at the time for Everton and we finished in the top seven of the Premier League. I didn’t get on and I just felt he had some sort of problem with me. Like I said, I didn’t want to make a big deal about not playing under him so I kept quiet but I am available to come back now.”
Gibson says that he didn’t expect to be in the starting line-up for the first game against Croatia but, by the time of the dead rubber match against Italy, he simply couldn’t understand why he wasn’t given even a cursory run-out.
“Do you know what, I went to the Euros not expecting to start as I thought the lads who went all the way through the qualifiers playing deserved their chance,” he says.
“Whelan and Andrews, I knew they would start and I was fine with that but I expected to get on the pitch at some stage.
“Playing Italy, we were basically out. I thought he would change it and give the lads who didn’t play a chance as we had been there for four weeks. And it didn’t happen. I do regret not playing (for Ireland since) but, like I said, I was embarrassed and angry I didn’t get on the pitch for even a second at the Euros. I felt I couldn’t come back and play for him again. The team not doing well and me playing every week for Everton and not getting anywhere near getting a game. I felt embarrassed for myself.
“If you have a player playing for a Premier League team that finishes in the top seven and you have someone — I don’t want to show any disrespect to Paul Green — but he had been released from his club and he got on the pitch and I didn’t; there was obviously something wrong.”
(Editor’s note: Gibson is actually incorrect in saying that Green had been released by his club — in fact, Derby County had tried to resign him).
Gibson claims that he was being treated differently even before the Euros when, according to the player, the manager insisted he come in early to the Irish camp in Malahide.
“He brought me in a week early with the Championship players,” he says. “I’ll not lie to you, I’ll tell you the truth: I said I didn’t want to come in a week early because none of the other Premier League players were coming in. He asked two other Premier League players to come in, which I’ll not name, and they both said no as well. He let them two stay off for the week but he said to me if I don’t come in, he’s leaving me out of the squad for the Euros. There must have been a problem before going to the Euros. There must be a problem, he’s not liked me for something that has happened.
“Do you know what? After the Spain game when I didn’t get on, I pulled him (aside) and said, ‘Listen, is there a problem? Is there a reason I’m not playing?’
And the exact words he said to me were: ‘You’re young.’ And that was it. And he walked off and didn’t give me any other reason.”
It’s put to Gibson that there has long been a rumour circulating of an alleged disciplinary problem involving two Irish players and the breaking of a curfew in Sopot on the eve of the tournament.
Is there any truth in that? “No”, he replies.
Nothing like that that was an issue between you and Trapattoni?
Gibson says that the last straw came when he didn’t make it off the bench against Italy and maintains that, even if he’d managed just a cameo in that match, he would have continued to make himself available for his country.
“I don’t know what he was thinking,” he reflects. “I thought I should have got on the pitch for a minute at least, and if I had got on the pitch I would still have been raging but I would have come back.”
Instead, the player rebuffed Trapattoni’s invitation to return for the World Cup campaign.
“At first it wasn’t a difficult decision to make because I was that angry,” he says.
“When he first asked me to come back in, I said no straight away. But as I was watching the games, each game, I was thinking to myself maybe I should have gone back. I do regret it. But I stuck to my guns. I didn’t want to play under him again.”
According to Gibson, his then manager at Everton, David Moyes, at first thought the player should return for Ireland.
“He was disappointed in me not going back. He wanted me to go back. I said to him, ‘It’s my decision and I don’t feel I can go back and play under him’. And he said, ‘I’m 100% behind you’.”
Gibson’s new boss at Everton, Roberto Martinez, also advised him to return to international duty.
“He spoke to me about the Ireland situation and I told him,” says the 25-year-old. “He said to me that I should play international football and I said, as soon as the manager goes, I’ll be back.”
Gibson says he has never regretted his decision to declare for the Republic and insists he is now fully committed to playing for the country again.
“Yeah, If I’m called up, I’ll come straight back in,” he says. “I would love to do that more than anything but we’ll see. I would love to be involved in the next two games to be honest but it’s not my decision. I’ll speak to whoever at the FAI and make myself available again and we’ll see what happens.”
Asked if he thinks other Irish players might have issues with his return, he replies with a laugh: “I hope not. I don’t think there will, to be fair, they’re all good lads. There might be a few words but it might be just banter. If new manager comes in, and he has a problem, I’ll tell him the reason why I’ve come back. If he doesn’t agree, there’s nothing I can do. The fans? We’ll see what happens. If I get booed, I’ll have to deal with it. I think that’s what obviously the majority of the fans felt: that I didn’t want to play for Ireland, which wasn’t the case. I did want to play for Ireland but, like I said before, after what happened, I didn’t feel like I could play for him anyway.”
And, finally, would he expect a reaction from Trapattoni to this interview? “Nah, not really, no, I’ve not said anything bad about him, to be honest,” says Gibson. “I’ve not disrespected him in any way. If he wants to say something, he can say whatever he wants — but I don’t think he’s got much to say.” O’Neill or Keane will do for Gibson
Darron Gibson says he would be happy to see either Martin O’Neill or Roy Keane installed as the next manager of Ireland — though he quickly adds he wouldn’t necessarily restrict the choice to just those two.
“Martin O’Neill is a strong favourite for it,” says his fellow Derryman. “I think he’d be quite good, he’s experienced and I think he’d get on quite well with all of the lads.
“He’s supposed to be really good one on one with players. Obviously, Sheasy (John O’Shea) says he’s a good manager but I’ve not really spoken about it that much to be honest.
“The Derry connection? It has no relevance, he will pick the best players, or the players he thinks will suit the team best. He might understand me a bit better but that’s about it.”
And what of Keane? “I don’t mind who gets the job and Roy would be quite good. I’m not sure how some of the fans would react after what he’s done — he’d take a bit of the attention from me (laughs).
“He’d be good but I am sure the FAI will pick the right manager.”
Meanwhile with the FAI yet to establish formal contact with hot favourite O’Neill, sources yesterday indicated that the former Sunderland boss is “relaxed” about the lack of official communication thus far.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved