Can Kieran Gibbs resurrect his career by earning promotion with West Brom?
It’s almost two years to the day since Kieran Gibbs was called up to the England squad ahead of Luke Shaw to replace the injured Ryan Bertrand. The left-back couldn’t be further away from another invitation from Gareth Southgate. The 29-year-old is plying his trade in the Championship after suffering relegation with West Bromwich Albion last season. No Premier League suitors came forward during the summer. Gibbs knows his Dylan Thomas, however, refusing to go gentle into that good night. He's been in fine form as Albion mount a promotion challenge.
In 11 appearances leading up to the international break, the former Gunner scored or created five goals for the Midlands outfit. The Baggies sit second in the table with 24 points from 12 games. A top-flight return could be in the cards, replete with a career resurrection.
Gradual decline at Arsenal
Gibbs joined Arsenal from MK Dons in 2004, making 229 appearances in all competitions although his time as a regular first-teamer was short-lived. After featuring heavily in 2012/13 (23 league starts) and 2013/14 (24), Nacho Monreal arrived to oust him from Arsene Wenger's starting XI.
In 2014/15, the pair shared playing time in the Premier League before Wenger reduced Gibbs to a backup for his final two seasons at the Emirates. A mere 11 appearances came in those campaigns. With 12 months to run on his contract at 2017/18's outset, Arsenal sought to cash in on the defender.
Monreal owned the left-back role. Sead Kolasinac signed from Schalke to provide cover. Gibbs’ career headed the wrong way after leaving Arsenal, but he couldn't foresee Albion dropping out of the Premier League in his first season at the Hawthorns.
Has Gibbs’ professionalism been a curse?
After spending his last two seasons warming the bench, Gibbs hampered his chances with another top club through poor timing. If not for Albion, Watford would have been his next destination. Liverpool was rumoured but no concrete offer materialised.
Had Gibbs cut his losses sooner, he may have landed at a Chelsea or Manchester United. His chances for an England recall would have been considerably better. Instead, the left-back’s professionalism proved detrimental to his ambition. A quiet nature doesn't help when the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Gibbs didn’t speak out at Arsenal to force a move when he wasn’t getting a game. Nor did he try to engineer an exit from West Brom after their relegation. He remained professional, trained hard, honoured his contract. he was what every fan says footballers should be and look where it took him.
Football can be a cruel game for those unwilling to get their hands dirty. If West Brom earns promotion, his loyalty will find its just reward. A more ambitious player wouldn't have put his career in fortune's hands.
The former Gunner is a standout performer in the second tier after spending most of his career in the Premier League. Whether Albion can match his ambitions by returning to the top-flight is up for debate. Certainly, it's where Kieran Gibbs belongs.