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Gibson needs to get out of Goodison, warns Kilbane

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Having featured in just three of Everton’s 19 league games this season – each time as a substitute – Gibson is quickly becoming the forgotten man at Goodison Park

Having featured in just three of Everton’s 19 league games this season – each time as a substitute – Gibson is quickly becoming the forgotten man at Goodison Park

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Having featured in just three of Everton’s 19 league games this season – each time as a substitute – Gibson is quickly becoming the forgotten man at Goodison Park

Kevin Kilbane has urged Darron Gibson to ask for a transfer from Everton to kick-start his career.

Having featured in just three of Everton's 19 league games this season - each time as a substitute - Gibson is quickly becoming the forgotten man at Goodison Park. This Tuesday marks the third anniversary since his move from Manchester United and yet at no stage has the outlook ever appeared as bleak.

Now 27, Gibson should be approaching his peak, yet he is danger of being pigeon-holed as a bit-part player, one who has made only 105 competitive starts in his career, nine years on from his debut as an 18-year-old for United against Barnet in the League Cup.

"It's a concern that Darron Gibson can't make the team even when Roberto Martinez plays three in central midfield," said Kilbane, "and he should consider going out on loan, or even leaving the club.

"He only has to look at Shane Duffy, who was in a similar position not so long ago. He moved to Blackburn and is now playing regularly. So Gibson has to consider his options carefully. Does he stay and get the odd cameo, or does he move? He needs to play, especially after missing a year with injury."

Gibson's problems aren't the only ones at Goodison. After an impressive season last year, when they finished fifth, Martinez's side have flopped, winning just five league games this season and just once in their last 10 matches.

Seven of those games have ended in defeat, suggesting that a battle against relegation rather than a fight for a Champions League spot is on the cards.

"You would think that Everton have way too much quality in the side to avoid a relegation battle but the transformation from last season is very worrying," said Kilbane, who was in the Everton side that managed a fourth-placed finish in 2005.

"I watched the FA Cup game against West Ham during the week and the players seemed to lack confidence. The atmosphere at Goodison was ghostly, you could feel the tension, and when (Romelu) Lukaku scored a late equaliser, the reaction was one of relief more than joy.

"At the start of this season, Martinez was talking about challenging for a Champions League place, and while he hasn't publicly given up on that, realistically the only way that can happen now is if they win the Europa League."

PROBLEMS

Yet UEFA's secondary club competition is, Kilbane feels, the source of Everton's problems.

"There is no doubt it has had a draining impact," he said. "I know from my time with Ireland how tough it was to pick yourself up, physically and mentally, for a club game on a Saturday, after playing an international on a Wednesday.

"Martinez is aware things need to improve and he's switched to three at the back in an effort to get things back on an even keel. When you see a manager shifting strategy half-way through a season, it makes you wonder.

"They've got some huge battles coming up with Manchester City (today) and then Liverpool and Chelsea. Those matches will tell us a lot about the character of the side.

"The reality is they are letting in too many goals, and as a result they are now looking over their shoulders at clubs who were ready for a dogfight right from the start of the season, the likes of Burnley, Palace, QPR and Leicester. Everton didn't expect to be in there but if they're not careful, they will be."

And that hardly spells good news for their Irish quartet.

"While Aiden McGeady started the season very well, with his club form mirroring his Irish performances, he has found it hard going ever since. Not playing every week has not helped his cause," said Kilbane.

"Then you have James McCarthy who has struggled with fitness. He seems to play two games, miss one and so on. When he's not playing, Gareth Barry struggles without him. Everton need to hold on to McCarthy in the transfer window and get him 100pc fit as he could be the key to remainder of their season.

"As for Seamus Coleman, he has had a good season but not a stellar one by his standards."

Kilbane was speaking at the SWAI's annual awards dinner last night, which saw Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny collect the Personality of the Year award. Mark McNulty was named the goalkeeper of the year.

Irish Independent