DARRON GIBSON should be given an integral role in the Republic of Ireland midfield during the opening 2012 European Championship clash with Croatia this Sunday.
That’s the view of two men who have watched the former Manchester United man closely since his January switch from Manchester United - Everton legends, Graeme Sharp and Ian Snodin.
Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has indicated he could switch from his favoured 4-4-2 formation to add an extra midfielder as they prepare to face European heavyweights Spain and Italy, as well as Croatia, in the group stages which would give Gibson a chance to force his way into the starting line-up.
“I do see him as a starter,” said Sharp. “His form has been good for Everton. Darron will be asked to do a job as a holding midfield player and that is something he can do easily.”
Gibson became an immediate starter for Everton following his arrival from Old Trafford and since then his form has been impressive and Snodin, who made 148 appearances for the Toffees from 1987-1995, also thought that the Derry man’s recent form at Goodison Park should warrant a starting berth against the Croats.
“I didn’t know too much about him before he came to Everton,” admitted Snodin. “Obviously I had seen bits and pieces of him playing for Man United, but he wasn’t a regular.
“Since he signed for the club he has been outstanding. He sits in there, holds the midfield together and likes to shoot from distance. His Everton form has been good and I am sure he is going to be the mainstay of the Republic midfield come the Euros.”
The Hazelbank lad got 25 minutes of action in Ireland’s final Euro 2012 warm-up game, a 0-0 draw with Hungary last Monday night. And the friendly performance has made Trapattoni seriously consider changing his tactics for the tournament.
Gibson was set to play a back-up role after the Italian named his preferred starting XI as a 4-4-2 formation with Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan in central midfield. But such was the display against Hungary, Trapattoni has now reconsidered his plans which could present a window of opportunity for the Everton man.
James is Trap’s dark horse
Meanwhile, Man United and Ireland legend, Roy Keane has backed James McClean to be Trapattoni’s ‘surprise package’ at the European Championships.
Keane believes the Creggan man may have slipped under the radar of the Republic’s Group C rivals and could prove to be a major goal threat.
“I like the look of McClean,” said Keane. “You need young players coming through and obviously he’s had some difficulty because he’s been criticised for not playing for N. Ireland but he’s made his decision.
“McClean might be the surprise package because the other teams won’t have seen too much of him. He’s a big strong boy and can get you goals.”