Martin O'Neill urges Darron Gibson to take responsibility
Martin O'Neill has warned Darron Gibson that his career is in danger of slipping away if he fails to sort out the issues that have affected his standing at Everton.
The Derry-born midfielder was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons yesterday after he was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and banned from driving for 20 months following an accident near his home last month.
Gibson pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol, driving without due care and attention and failing to stop after a crash when he collided with three cyclists that had stopped to fix a broken chain. One member of that party sustained minor injuries and had a bike worth £4,500 written off.
The episode comes at a dreadful time for Gibson, who is on the sidelines, with his injury-plagued Everton career at a crossroads.
His last appearance came in March and he has made just 44 league outings for the Toffees since joining the club in January 2012, with a serious knee problem sustained on Ireland duty setting off a disastrous run of luck.
O’Neill was in good humour as he discussed the absent player’s situation after Ireland training in Abbotstown ahead of Friday’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Gibraltar, but he still stressed that Gibson has a lot of work to do to get himself back on track.
“I’m sure Everton are not too happy,” said O’Neill. “I’m not sure he’s that bothered whether I have had a word with him or not. He has more issues on his mind.
“The number of games he has not played in the last couple of years is kind of worrying and you get to that stage when you are never properly fit.
“And it looks like Darron, for one reason or another, has not been properly fit for quite some time. That’s something he would have to address on his own.
“He’s had very little football in close on two years and it’s not as if he is 21 or 22. (Gibson is 27). You are getting to the other edge.”
"If there are genuine reasons for the injuries then that is fine. If is something that you are not doing well enough yourself then that is something he would have to address himself. It (injuries) definitely saps away at your enthusiasm. There is nothing worse."
Jeff Hendrick and Anthony Stokes are also due to face criminal proceedings arising from separate nightclub incidents and, asked if he had concerns about the conduct of his players, O'Neill quipped: "We might just have a bad bunch, y'know? Statistically speaking, it's not great is it?
"Obviously Darren's is serious," he continued, changing the tone, "And that is an issue and that's something the football club will have to address."
However, his tongue then firmly returned to cheek as he considered what might have happened if Gibson had received a stronger sentence. "I just don't want to be going to Wormwood Scrubs and picking him up," he added. "I suppose it would be quite handy to Heathrow. Unless they stick him into Strangeways - you could get a flight from Manchester.
"Apparently, he's got community service now. I assume by the time he's fit and ready to play for us, that community service will be over," added O'Neill, who laughed when it was put to him that representing Ireland could function as Gibson's sanction. "That could be the biggest punishment of all. Right?"
Gibson's Everton colleague James McCarthy is a doubt for Gibraltar as he is due to undergo a precautionary scan on his knee. Hendrick is another concern after he went over his ankle in training.
O'Neill will clarify their positions before cutting his travelling party from 28 to 23 for tomorrow's flight to Faro. "The players accept I have to leave a few out," he said.