Niall Quinn believes there is a way back for Darron Gibson at Sunderland, just so long as the player does his talking on the pitch rather than in a bar.
Gibson was fined by the club after he was recently filmed delivering drink-fuelled criticism of his team-mates. New manager Simon Grayson said Gibson apologised for his behaviour and would be staying at the club, but added that “his reputation is in tatters to a certain degree”.
However, Quinn, a former Sunderland player, chairman and, briefly, manager, reckons the Derryman can still rehabilitate himself on Wearside.
“There is always a way back, but it always boils down to one thing: Getting on the pitch, giving it all for the jersey and turning things around and showing how much it means to you and, if a player does that, the fans will react. In some ways, this is the biggest question mark on Darron’s career, but if he went out there and gave a performance of a lifetime, tracked back and won tackles, led with passion, I promise you they would let him go out every night of the week and talk about what he wants.
“But he has to earn the right now. I know dressing rooms. There will be rib-tickling. I don’t think there will be animosity in there. One or two might be offended, but that’s great because the spotlight switches to them and you say ‘prove you’re not’.
“It’s an interesting one. In some ways, if it was done in the cold light of day at 2pm with the press after training, I tell you what, it would really raise the mark. A good row in the dressing room helps every now and then, but this was obviously done in a funny fashion. It’s not to mean it’s not recoverable, but he would really want to think he’s back in the Bogside trying to get going as a footballer and kick his way out of it.”
Meanwhile, Quinn has described his decision to step away from television punditry as a lifestyle choice which will allow him to spend more time with his family as well as working on what he calls “a little start-up tech project”. He revealed that he finally made his decision during a recent break in Kerry.
“A walk on the beach in Waterville clarified it for me, being around all those Kerry GAA lads,” he said, smiling. “It’s a pure lifestyle choice; slow down and have weekends to myself here. I turned 50 in October and it was the whole thing together – like, this weekend will be my first weekend off in a season since I was 17, y’know?”
* Niall Quinn, Shay Given, Jason McAteer and Robbie Fowler were in Dublin yesterday to mark Cadbury’s new role as ‘Official Snack Partner’ to the Premier League.
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